Garden Bridge One Step Closer To Being Built

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 47 months ago
Garden Bridge One Step Closer To Being Built

Image by ARUP.

Lambeth Council is expected to grant planning permission to the Garden Bridge tomorrow (Tuesday*). The increasingly controversial structure is a Thomas Heatherwick-designed footbridge that will span the Thames from Temple tube station to the South Bank, just in front of the ITV studios. Here's a round-up of some of the major objections.

Ironically, for a garden, the bridge's construction will involve cutting down at least 27 mature trees on the South Bank. The application says this loss will be "outweighed by the significant amount of new planting and urban greening". The 270 trees on the bridge will be restricted to 15m in height so as not to affect views (though that's still quite tall, right?). The Waterloo Community Development Group says there will be an "absolute loss of a large grassed area of open space, and considerable harm done to the development of other open spaces".

Complaints have been voiced that the bridge will spoil views across the river. However, English Heritage believes the low slung design won't harm the vistas across to St Paul's, Somerset House et al.

Temple tube station would need to close for six months during construction (PDF). That's not going to go down well with commuters.

The planning application itself describes the bridge as a "popular visitor attraction", expecting 7 million people to come each year, with peaks of 4,000 between 5pm-6pm on weekdays and 5,000 on Saturdays at the same time. Campaigners Thames Central Open Space — which is opposed to the bridge — pointed out to us on Twitter that there are no loos planned for them (there's an estimate that the bridge would draw an extra 3.5m people each year, which would be an 18% increase on annual South Bank visitor numbers). Given that the bridge encourages milling about rather than quick crossing, and a maximum capacity of 2,500 at any one time, queues can be expected (and are being planned for).

The bridge is only for pedestrians (no cycling, though you can push your bike over if you like) but not all the time: the bridge will be closed between 12am-6am and can also be closed for "fundraising or community events".

Given that it's more likely to be an attraction than a practical crossing point, there have been questions raised about the cost of the project. Initially mooted at around £60m, it has now escalated to £175m — with £60m pledged from the public purse (£30m from Transport for London and £30m from government). As with the cable car, which has turned out to be a theme park ride part-paid for with public funds, is this the best way to spend TfL's cash?

On the pro side? The Garden Bridge Trust says the bridge will contribute to the Waterloo Opportunity Area and provide economic boosts to the areas either side (though we would ask: how much more of a boost does the South Bank need?). Also: pretty.

You can read the full application to Lambeth Council in this PDF. Westminster Council still has to pass its judgement. Your own judgement? The comments are below...

* Damnit, the Standard got the planning committee date wrong. Thanks to @SE1 for pointing that out.

Last Updated 10 November 2014