London’s Garden Bridge looked to be in serious trouble today after project champion Joanna Lumley revealed that one of the project’s most crucial supporters may withdraw its backing
Appearing on BBC Radio London this morning, Lumley said that Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB), which is the leaseholder of the land needed for the bridge’s southern landing point, was ‘very opposed’ to the bridge.
CSCB’s permission is required for the £185 million Heatherwick-designed scheme to go-ahead and, as recently as March this year, the organisation had said that ‘on balance’ the bridge would be beneficial to the capital.
But talking on the Vanessa Feltz show, Lumley said there had been a ‘hiatus’ with the project while the Garden Bridge Trust obtained various consents.
‘Coin Street are the only people who haven’t signed [an agreement] yet,’ she said. ‘When we have that – and we hope we will get that next week – then we go ahead and can make public the donors.
‘Coin Street are very opposed to it so we’re having very interesting discussions with Coin Street and we hope next week we’ll be able to come to a conclusion.’
Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, CSCB group director Iain Tuckett said the organisation’s stance on the bridge ‘remained unchanged’, but hinted that the project would have to clear significant hurdles in order to win its final approval.
‘We have tried to be very clear to the Garden Bridge Trust, the statutory authorities, the media and the public about what role it is appropriate for us to play in respect of the proposed Garden Bridge, and what we will require for our consent to be given,’ he said.
‘We recognise that refusing to surrender our lease and imposing requirements in order to mitigate construction impacts and ensure proper operational arrangements should the bridge be built, may be seen by others as “Coin Street being difficult”. We see it as “doing our job”.
’I suspect that this explains Joanna’s comment this morning. We subsequently received an apology from the trust, which we have accepted. Our stance on the Garden Bridge remains unchanged.’
Despite many Radio London listeners writing or calling in to express their opposition to the Garden Bridge, Lumley claimed it had ‘many many millions’ of backers and only 2,000 to 3,000 objectors in London.
‘This is a facility for Londoners, it just happens to be a very beautiful and quiet way of crossing the river,’ she said.
Earlier this week, in an opinion piece published by The Times, Garden Bridge Trust chair Mervyn Davies made an economic case for the project, claiming ‘many contracts have been issued throughout Britain to provide equipment, goods and services for the bridge’.
In contrast, Lumley claimed of the project was entirely philanthropic, saying ‘nobody will stand to make any money from this’.
She did admit there were strong objections to the Garden Bridge and said she found this difficult to accept.
‘Sometimes it feels like you’ve knocked on someone’s door and brought them a bouquet of flowers and the person has jumped on them,’ she said.
Lumley also pointed to early opposition to successful projects such as the London Eye and the London Olympics.
‘We have a sort of tendency to hate stuff,’ she said. ‘I would like people, just for a second, maybe just for today, to turn their hate eyes around and say “what if we loved this bridge? What if we were happy and proud of it, what if we loved walking across it and there were birds and flowers?”’
The actor and campaigner also claimed she ’did not know’ former mayor Boris Johnson, and that this idea had been invented by the media. Back in early 2015, the AJ revealed Lumley’s letters to Johnson.