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Emmott: 'Londoners overwhelmingly want the Garden Bridge'

  • 14 Comments

Ian Ritchie’s animosity towards the ‘flawed and unnecessary’ Garden Bridge is not shared by most Londoners, argues executive director of the Garden Bridge Trust Bee Emmott

London has earned its reputation as a world-leading city, where new ideas take flight and set new milestones for others to follow. So when Ian Ritchie asks what problem the Garden Bridge solves, surely we must be bolder, go beyond simply function and seek out the ideas, opportunities and the inspiration it presents.

The Garden Bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, will break new territory worthy of its world-first label.  It will create a new route for pedestrians, taking people through a new, free public garden in the heart of urbanised London, improving the pedestrian experience and creating an oasis of calm and beauty.

The Bridge will feature 2,500m² of brand new garden, connecting existing ecologies of the North and South Bank and London’s wider patchwork of habitats. There will be hundreds of new trees and thousands more plants, shrubs and bulbs attracting new wildlife. As a new “green corridor” across the Thames, it will benefit wildlife and pollinators, with carefully selected plants to improve biodiversity potential.

Ritchie talks about the Bridge being ‘private’ and of possible toll charges (see AJ 28.07.15). The Garden Bridge will in fact be free to use, open from 6am until midnight 365 days a year.  It will genuinely be open to everyone – somewhere to linger and admire the city and will also provide a route for commuters. Cyclists can push their bikes across, or use alternative routes nearby, so those on foot can safely enjoy the crossing. Security and lighting will be discreet and appropriate. 

The funding of the Bridge combines public and private sector funding, with over 65 per cent of the capital costs to build it fundraised from the private sector. More than £125 million has been pledged already and a business plan will cover the £2.8 million annual maintenance and operations costs. Transport for London and the Government have together contributed £60 million in total.

The bridge will stitch our divided city together

In terms of transport the bridge will improve connectivity on both sides of the River, with a direct link to Temple Underground reducing pressure on Waterloo Station. It complements and contributes to the Mayor’s transport strategy targets. The Bridge is a fantastic opportunity for local businesses on both sides of the river and the economic benefits will be- close to £500 million over 60 years through employment, investment and tourism.

The Garden Bridge is an exciting opportunity to nourish areas long both side of the Thames, improving the quality of the public realm and providing new walking routes to and from places such as Covent Garden, Soho and Waterloo. 

The Bridge is going to help stitch our divided city together and connect London. 

Today the Trust has published recent research that shows huge support for the Garden Bridge in London.  Over three quarters of Londoners support the bridge being built (78 per cent) with support in Westminster and Lambeth, where the bridge crosses the Thames, at 77 per cent.  Londoners clearly have more imagination and vision than Ian Ritchie.

Bee Emmott, is executive director of the Garden Bridge Trust

Garden bridge survey data – compiled by ComRes (July 2015)

More than three quarters of Londoners support the bridge being built (78 per cent). In Westminster and Lambeth, where the bridge will cross the Thames, approval is at 77 per cent.

In terms of age groups, 81 per cent of 18-24 year olds said they supported the bridge. This rises to 86 per cent among 18-24 year olds in Lambeth and Westminster. More than half (53 per cent) of young people in the two boroughs  think that London needs more green spaces.

 

  • 14 Comments

Readers' comments (14)

  • The ComRes data is here: http://comres.co.uk/polls/garden-bridge-trust-survey/

    it is worth looking at the two questions which were asked. They only mention perceived benefits and not any of the negatives of the project.

    The Garden Bridge Trust have continuously run their public engagement and consultation as if a developer's PR and spin marketing exercise. But this is a largely publicly funded project, apparently offering a public infrastructure connection, built on public land, blocking free public views of world heritage sites. For public consultation the public need to know positives AND negatives to make an informed decision.

    Daily I speak to people who don't even know where the bridge is located. This is not their fault, but entirely the fault of the GBT who have minimised open discussion and debate.

    I find that every time people are made aware of the impact, cost, greenwash, privatisation and location of the bridge they are against it. But still the GBT offer spin and marketing tricks.

    it is disgusting. And in the week we see that the Walkie Talkie has to redevelop their garden because they misinformed the planning with what was illustrated to what actually now existis we still get renders such as the very one which illustrates the GBT page on the poll (here: https://www.gardenbridge.london/news/article/londoners-show-huge-support-for-the-garden-bridge). Three people standing on a bridge. Whcih has a capacity for 2,500 and a queuing system for a further 2,500. This is not only unrealistic is is deliberately misleading.

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  • With regards to the article above:
    1
    "The Garden Bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, will break new territory worthy of its world-first label."
    Just like Heatherwick's other publicly funded projects. The Blue Carpet in Newcastle (Twice over budget, failing, cracked and grey, a local eyesore), B of the Bang (removed due to huge danger to public from falling spikes), New Routemaster (sauna on wheels, uneconomical, bad for environment, bad use of space).

    2
    "As a new “green corridor” across the Thames, it will benefit wildlife and pollinators, with carefully selected plants to improve biodiversity potential."
    It is not green. This is hugely misleading. The RSPB have spoken against it, the Green Party are against it as are Wildlife London. It is a concrete bridge which removes mature trees. It is greenwash: www.afollyforlondon.co.uk/06-the-green-party-against-this-green-garden-bridge/


    3
    "The Garden Bridge will in fact be free to use, open from 6am until midnight 365 days a year."
    The GBT Planning document states "It is acknowledged however, that the opening hours may change in the future."
    The initial public consultation on the bridge didn't mention much, but it did state that a future ticketing system may be required.


    4
    "It will genuinely be open to everyone – somewhere to linger and admire the city and will also provide a route for commuters."
    Great for commuters, as per the planning doc: "A 600sqm area on south landing building roof has been specifically identified for queuing. It will accommodation a ‘Disney queues’ system with temporary installation of ‘Tensabarriers’ using floor sockets built into the deck."


    5
    "Cyclists can push their bikes across, or use alternative routes nearby, so those on foot can safely enjoy the crossing."
    The GBT Planning Documents state "Consultation on this OMP will look at whether further restrictions will be required during a peak period"
    Further, the TfL document for planning states "The proposed development would not be accessible or open to cycles."


    6
    "a business plan will cover the £2.8 million annual maintenance and operations costs."
    Yes, they raised £250,000 at a recent Gala Lunch at Harrods. I wonder how they will raise the annual maintenance in 20 years when it's less glossy and the marketing spin has worn off. But it doesn't matter as we public have underwritten the costs, so there's no incentive for the GBT to bother.
    It is worth mentioning that their business plan is based on commercial units on what is current public green space and closure of the bridge for corporate use, which may need to be increased as years go on.


    7
    "The Bridge is a fantastic opportunity for local businesses on both sides of the river and the economic benefits will be- close to £500 million over 60 years through employment, investment and tourism."
    So, this would mainly be the North Bank BID and their huge interests in upping potential rent of units to chain cafes etc under their new development projects. Great for London! Yeah, right.


    8
    "The Bridge is going to help stitch our divided city together "
    yes. you're right here. With projects like A Folly For London and TCOS standing on the South Bank talking to the public (note, this is real public engagement!) there is a huge coming together in opposition of this disastrous project. Solidarity against it, you are achieving that!


    9
    "Londoners clearly have more imagination and vision than Ian Ritchie."
    What an extremely patronising thing to say. People are free to look at the questions you asked of the public, and in no way did they put across the truths of the bridge and allow them an informed decision. Disgusting comment.

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  • I am alarmed to see Bee Emmott and the Garden Bridge Trust once again telling only half the story in order to try and bolster dwindling support for this ill-conceived project. The opinion poll referred to told respondents nothing about the facts that the bridge will destroy highly prized views across and of the Thames, that there will be no public right of way over what would be the only privately owned bridge in central London, that it destroys as much green open space as it claims to create, or the loss of 30+ mature trees. And the claim in Ms Emmott's article that the bridge will be open 365 days a year is patently untrue: we know already that it will be closed for at least one day a month for corporate events, while the business plan suggests that sections might also be cordoned off for private hire during the summer months. Tell the truth - and let Londoners decide. The answer will be loud and clear - this ultimate vanity project is neither needed nor wanted in this location.

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  • Bizarre Bee, what are you saying? Are you not ashamed to put your name to this drivel?

    "The Garden Bridge will break new territory... a new, free public garden in the heart of urbanised London". Wow! A new garden!! Is that 'breaking new territory' because its new - unlike nearby 'old' Jubilee Gardens (2012) or 'old' Kensington Gardens (1728), or 'old' Camley St Gardens (1985) and all the other urban gardens inbetween in London which were built sometime before the Right Now?

    "2,500m² of brand new garden" for £175m? What are planting, caviar trees?

    "65 per cent of the capital costs to build it fundraised from the private sector" But your own figures show that you have only 35% (£65m out of £175m) of the capital costs pledged from the private sector! Doh!!

    "reducing pressure on Waterloo Station" - how? By creating a visitor attraction bringing 3m additional visitors to the area? Doh

    The "economic benefits will be- close to £500 million over 60 years" will be generated by 5% uplift in property prices in the area according to the Strategic Business Case,,, which is of course precisely what London needs now with an over-heated housing market... Not! Doh!!!

    "We must be bolder [than asking what problem it solves], go beyond simply function and seek out the ideas, opportunities and the inspiration it presents"? It's fine to go beyond simple function, but if you're proposing a BRIDGE it must at least pass muster on the simple functional level. Does a structure which connects unrelated spaces and closes at night and on occasional days and elicits long queues pass muster as a bridge?

    Finally, what is the "inspiration it presents"? The inspiration to every insider to hook up with a grinning chancer and try an audacious raid on the public realm and the public purse?

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  • I agree with Ms Emmott that the question of what problem is being solved is not the most important. To me even more important is the problems that are being created.

    You can’t blame the survey respondents for thinking they’re getting “an oasis of peace and tranquillity” when the truth is consistently hidden from them by the likes of the Trust and the Evening Standard (who incidentally didn’t think the mayor’s decision to underwrite the annual £3 million maintenance costs was newsworthy whereas the peanut raising Harrods do was!) A while ago if I’d been asked if I “tended to support the scheme” I would have said yes. But that was before I looked into it and instead of “an oasis of peace and tranquillity” I found a contrived tourist clamour casually vandalising a precious space.

    If ever there was a triumph of spin over substance this is it.

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  • £30 million is pledged from Treasury, so this is a national issue, not just a London one, much less just one for Lambeth and Westminster. So why poll just 2,000 Londoners? (If you can call that a real poll, which it clearly isn't. 50% of respondents conceded that they knew "little" or "nothing" about the Garden Bridge when polled and were then asked an absurdly facile question about whether they would like a new pedestrianized space with trees! Why didn't you just ask them if they'd like fries with that?)

    Another £30 million is pledged from Transport for London. So it's functionality is not just relevant, Ms Emmott -- it is everything. You are deflecting criticism of its functional limitations by pointing the Bridge's "beauty", but that's not the basis on which it was funded. Your own poll -- at Question 1 -- shows that WHEN THE GIVE THE OPPORTUNITY, respondents prioritised Buses & Tubes (not to mention housing and healthcare) above pedestrianisation and green spaces.

    What offends me more than anything about this hugely misconceived project is the blizzard of lies that it is fomenting from its supporters. Ian Ritchie raises some perfectly valid points and tries to generate some urgently needed and genuine debate and he is patronisingly accused of having "no vision". Caroline Pidgeon raises perfectly valid questions about it in the GLA and Boris Johnson accuses her of a "Taliban-like hatred of objects of beauty". It is disgraceful. Scandalous even.

    If "form" and "beauty" is what it's for -- if it is such an inspirational work of art -- then get the Arts Council to fund it. If it is about bringing tourists to London, then get your money from DCMS. But you can't, can you? Because you don't have a logical argument -- you have a Mayor and a Chancellor in your pocket. So you have to conjure a bunch of deceitful arguments to match the budgets that they have to spend.

    They should rename this The Bridge of Lies and be done with it.

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  • If you repeat the corporate line enough times you are bound to start believing it eventually. There is clearly a bubble of billy bollocks wrapped firmly around the PR machine behind this. If it was the right thing to do it then why is a PR machine employed at all.

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  • I do find it striking that Bee Emmott who once led Heatherwick's Special Projects Team, is now heading the Garden Bridge Trust. Conflict of Interest anyone?
    That aside, I do agree with the original idea of a public pedestrian park-like bridge, but not with what it has been downgraded to over the attempt to please too many parties and fit into a location it isn't made for.

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  • I'm sure that Hans Christian Andersen would be smiling quietly to himself at such a classic example of 'The Emperor's new clothes'.
    Just how far will this project run, where is 'the point of no return' after which London - and national - politicians will be stuck with responsibility for the imposition of a colossal monument to their vanity? - and drain on a much abused public purse.

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  • Let's look more closely at those 'green' credentials. The proposed bridge is to be clad in copper-nickel alloy donated by Glencore, the mining mutlinational. Glencore extracts copper from the Congo, where it has been linked with acid-dumping, child labour, mining in nature reserves, and many other shameful activities (see links below). Outside the arms and drugs trades, you could hardly hope to find a more morally soiled company.

    'Heart of Darkness', Joseph Conrad's great novel of 1899, begins on the Thames. From there, it traces the vicious imperial exploitation of Africa by commercial interests, right up the Congo to the present-day heartlands of Glencore plc.

    The novel concludes back in London, where "the river that led to the ends of the earth looked sombre beneath the overcast sky. It seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness."

    Shall we call it the Glencore Heart of Darkness Bridge, and have done with it?


    (http://www.theguardian.com/business/2012/apr/14/glencore-child-labour-acid-dumping-row ; http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/corporatenews/storyoftheday/entryid/1598/glencore-accused-of-greenwash.aspx)

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