A legal challenge has been launched against Thomas Heatherwick’s proposed Garden Bridge across the River Thames
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Michael Ball, the former director of a local community group, has applied to the High Court for a judicial review into Lambeth Council’s decision to approve Heatherwick’s £175 million bridge.
He believes the impact of the link would be ‘devastating’ and claims the council acted unlawfully by granting planning permission for the contentious project in November 2014. Ball’s papers were served in late January 2015, with a decision on whether he is given the opportunity to make his case due next month March.
Ball feels ‘particularly aggrieved at the manner in which this proposal and planning application has been handled by Lambeth and by other agencies of government, starting with private letters to Boris Johnson, bypassing both strategic planning and public procurement rules, and sustained by a flawed and inadequate planning scrutiny’.
Born near the site, Ball is also concerned the bridge would do significant harm to ‘one of the great promenades of Europe’. He said: ‘The best views of the City and St Paul’s will be compromised from Waterloo Bridge and entirely blocked along the South Bank’.
Lawyers for Ball are arguing that Lambeth Council failed to comply with its duty to protect the historic setting of listed buildings in the area, like Somerset House.
Solicitor Richard Stein from Leigh Day, the practice representing Ball, said: ‘This seems like a poorly thought through project which, although attractive at first glance, on reflection is seriously deficient in a number of important respects.
‘[We] are asking the court to quash the planning permission and to send the project back to Lambeth for much more careful consideration before such a significant change is made to the historic heart of London’.
First conceived by actor Joanna Lumley, the proposed 370m-long planted pedestrianised bridge has been criticised for its location, cost and restrictions of how it will be used.
Boris Johnson, who approved the project in December, said that the bridge would provide the city with a ‘fantastic new landmark’, while supporting regeneration and economic growth on both banks of the river, creating ‘a stunning oasis of tranquillity in the heart of our city’.
Earlier this month, the AJ revealed the private letter sent by Joanna Lumley to Johnson, writing that she and Thomas Heatherwick wished to meet the Mayor to discuss their plans for the ‘green pedestrian bridge, with cycle tracks alongside, with container-grown trees: and beauty and practicality in equal measure’.
The bridge, which has secured £60 million of taxpayer funding, no longer includes provisions for cyclists. Lumley told a Lambeth planning meeting last year that she alone was responsible for that decision, as it would limit the crossing being a ‘peaceful place to walk’.
Seven million crossings are expected to be made on the bridge each year.
Harry Zelenka Martin at the Garden Bridge Trust, played down the legal threats, telling the AJ: ‘We are completely business as usual here. It’s Lambeth’s process and we will carry on as normal until a decision has been made’.
The trust insists the project will ‘greatly benefit’ London, creating new routes across the river to avoid busy roads, and connect cultural centres and tourist attractions on both banks of the Thames.
Legal challenge launched over 'devastating' garden bridge plans