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Heatherwick's Garden Bridge faces new backlash

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Thomas Heatherwick’s proposed £175million bridge across the River Thames is facing a new round of criticism after details of entry restrictions for the planned ‘public’ structure emerged.

Lambeth Council planners gave their backing to the southern section of the bridge at a meeting last week, but closer scrutiny of the 60-page report on the proposed structure have revealed surprising limits on public access.

Among them are proposals to require that groups of eight or more people seeking to access the bridge register their plans in advance, while further details reveal that the bridge could be closed for up to 12 days a year, and may also be closed to host private parties that would fund its operations.

The report said that the bridge would be staffed during opening hours to prevent illegal traders from operating on the structure, which will link the South Bank with Temple Station on the north side of the Thames.

It said that requiring groups of eight or more people to ‘request a formal visit’ would ‘not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge’.

The latest revelations about the Garden Bridge’s operations have ramped up skepticism over the plans being expressed on social media.

Politics, history and architecture blogger Alex Grant said the new revelations underscored the extent to which the bridge was a vanity project that was out of step with London’s infrastructure requirements.

‘Too many have fallen for an undoubtedly talented designer who just can’t overcome the folly of his brief: the Thames through central London is, quite obviously, an urban environment of water and stone, not a garden centre,’ he said.

The group-visit plans were not included in conditions tied to Lambeth’s planning approval, but provided as an indication of the trust’s plans.

A Garden Bridge Trust spokeswoman said the bridge had always been intended for public use and signalled that exact group-size numbers had not been finalised.

She said: ‘Like other public spaces, the bridge will need to manage numbers to ensure the comfort and safety of the pedestrians who use it.

‘As is common practice amongst operators of public space, the Garden Bridge Trust feels there needs to be a mechanism in place to account for large groups.

‘An initial figure put forward was for groups of greater than eight people. This was an initial discussion point, and the trust will work with stakeholders and the local planning authority to develop our proposal and confirm the agreed numbers.’ 

Previous story (AJ 12.11.14)

Lambeth approves Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge

homas Heatherwick’s proposed £175million bridge across the River Thames has been given the green light by Lambeth Council

The controversial 367m-long project linking Queen’s Walk on the South Bank with London Underground’s Temple Station on the north side of the river, was approved by five votes to two last night (11 November)

However the planted bridge, which is the brainchild of actor Joanna Lumley scheme and backed by the Garden Bridge Trust, still needs the thumbs up from Westminster City Council. The borough’s planning committee is expected to consider the plans and how they will impact on the northern embankment next month (December).

Critics of the scheme claim it would potentially affect key sight lines and is ‘in the wrong place’. A petition, launched by campaign group Thames Central Open Space to stop the proposal, amassed more than 780 signatures (see AJ 29.10.14).

Speaking after the approval Heatherwick, the founder of Heatherwick Studios, said: ‘The Garden Bridge will be an extraordinarily special place, either to race across, relax in or look back at the rest of the city’s sights. It is fantastic that the Lambeth has helped London take one step closer to making it a reality.’

Lumley added: ‘The Bridge is a fantastic example of innovative thinking that will help enhance the quality of life in London for both local communities and visitors alike, and is a project the UK can be proud of.’    

Alistair Subba Row, senior partner at property advisors Farebrother, also welcomed the decision, claiming the approval was ‘great news for London’.

He said: ‘The proposed bridge would unite two of London’s most exciting areas, Midtown and South Bank, forming London’s ‘creative and technological spine’ running from Kings Cross in the north to Elephant and Castle  in the South.

Delivery of the Garden Bridge would fundamentally pave the way for much needed regeneration and economic development in this part of the South Bank creating thousands of local jobs in the future.’

Once both authorities have approved the proposals, they will be passed on for endorsement to London Mayor Boris Johnson and communities secretary Eric Pickles.

In June Garden Bridge Trustee and former chief construction adviser to the Government Paul Morrell said that the Trust had set a self-imposed deadline for construction to begin next year due to the disruption caused by the proposed Thames Tideway Tunnel which is due to start in 2017.


Thames Central Open Space spokesperson Wai-King Cheung

‘With 22 visitor attractions and the largest arts centre in Europe, the South Bank does not need another attraction, let alone the largest in the UK. Visitors will be jostled and crushed in an area already heaving with tourists.

‘The thousands of local residents, many in social housing, will have their lives blighted. One of Europe’s great promenades and riverscapes will be lost forever - for a luvvies folly which provides less than half a football pitch of green open space. We look forward to a legal challenge being mounted against Lambeth’s half-baked decision.’


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