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Westminster still concerned over Garden Bridge’s impact on views

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Westminster planners are still concerned about the impact of Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge on protected historic views along the Thames

The council is worried about the Transport for London-backed 366m-long bridge’s impact on sightlines of St Paul’s Cathedral and Monument from the South Bank and Waterloo Bridge.

In a report, which has been prepared in advance of tomorrow night’s committee meeting (2 December), officers said: ‘If the proposal was for a private commercial development of this height and size the harm to these views would be considered unacceptable and the application refused.’

The London authority’s committee members will consider whether the ‘substantial benefits of the new bridge, the iconic architecture, new connectivity, and additional views created from the bridge, outweigh the harm to views form Waterloo Bridge and the Southbank’.

The council is recommending approval, conditional on a number of measures which it hopes will ensure long-term funding and maintenance.

Previously the City of London had raised concern that the £175 million bridge would ‘have a major impact on views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the City from the South Bank and Waterloo Bridge’, and could ‘significantly alter’ a key vista of Monument and affect the visibility of key landmarks.  

Despite the bridge’s backers producing a number of updated visuals to allay any fears (see AJ 15.10.14), the City of London remains deeply concerned by Heatherwick’s proposals.

The authority said: ‘The additional viewpoints provided by the applicant show a significant adverse effect on views of St Paul’s Cathedral, in terms of the ability to recognise and appreciate the Cathedral and its relationship to the river and to the Easter Cluster of tall buildings and the wider skyline.’

The City of London has also requested that a maintenance plan be put in place to ensure tree growth does not obscure views of St Paul’s Cathedral, Monument or other strategic views.

While local conservation group, the Westminster Society, added: ‘The thought that in 25 years significant views along the river could be narrowed by this structure is not acceptable. Growing trees on the bridge is a major mistake.’

But English Heritage said the bridge would not cause harm to the area’s historic assets. ‘The detailed design and the approaches to it from the river bank will change but not cause harm to the setting of, and views to and from, historic assets – including Somerset House, the Royal National Theatre, Waterloo Bridge, and St Paul’s Cathedral’, it said.

The organisation added: ‘In addition, views from the bridge itself will present a unique opportunity for enhancing or better revealing the significance of existing heritage assets.’

Planning was granted by Lambeth for its half of the planted bridge, which is the brainchild of actor Joanna Lumley scheme and backed by the Garden Bridge Trust, earlier in November (AJ 12.11.14)

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.

The key issues according to Westminster’s planning officers:

  • The impact of the development on the riverscape and the settings of important London views and heritage assets
  • The significant public benefits of the bridge including its iconic design, increased connectivity, provision of new open space, and the economic benefits on the Temple area
  • The forecasting of the number of visitors to the bridge and the impact of increased pedestrian activity
  • The mechanisms that will be put in place to ensure the bridge is properly operated and managed
  • The construction impacts of the bridge
  • The ecological impact of the bridge on the river
  • The loss of trees on the north bank weighed against the tree planting and urban greening that the bridge would deliver
  • The highway works planned for Temple Place to accommodate access to the bridge

Previous story (AJ 12.11.14)

Lambeth approves Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge

Westminster still concerned over Garden Bridge’s impact on views

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Readers' comments (2)

  • It's surely not just the Westminster planners that are concerned at the impact of this 'intervention' - I've never lived in London but the vistas over and along this stretch of the Thames are of national value, and not something to be messed up by a clever idea for the benefit of a rich, powerful interest group, assisted by substantial public money from a Lord mayor who surely needs a reality check.

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  • From the Summary of teh 80 page planning report...."The Garden Bridge is a unique proposal for which there is no precedent to make comparisons against. It is very clear therefore that a very robust, comprehensive and responsive Operation and Management Plan is going to be needed to ensure the project is a successful one in terms of visitor experience and impact on neighbours"
    In other words a potential recipe for disaster

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