Garden Bridge Campaign

The proposed Garden Bridge across the Thames between the Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges was initially supposed to be a pleasant park and an additional way of crossing the river, paid for from private funds.

In spite of the on-going public sector austerity that continues to reduce funding for existing parks and public spaces and prevents the development of new pedestrian and cycling bridges where they are actually needed for Londoners, such as between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf, more than £60MM was promised, on the instructions of then-Mayor Boris Johnson, by Transport for London (TfL) and the Treasury.  In spite of this level of taxpayer support, the bridge will be a private space, closed at night and for at least eight weekends a year.  The Garden Bridge Trust further looked to TfL to provide a public sector guaranteed for the maintenance of the bridge.

After nearly two years of sustained lobbying, and in the light of the Hodge Report into the public financing of the project, the current Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has refused this guarantee.  So, what next for the Garden Bridge?

The Ramblers opposed the Garden Bridge

As the Observer editorial (24th May 2015) said "It requires much trust to think that the proposed Thames garden bridge will be an asset for Britain. You have to believe that within a confined area it can simultaneously be a haven of peace, useful transport infrastructure and an attraction with more visitors than Disneyland, that it will not push the overcrowding on London’s South Bank, already bad, beyond endurance and safety, and that the failure to provide lavatories will have no unfortunate consequences."

As reported in this further Observer article, the Ramblers in Inner London have opposed the building of the bridge since 2015.  We have supported Thames Central Open Spaces in their campaign to prevent it. For more details, check out their web site at www.tcos.org.uk.

We opposed the Garden Bridge because it would:

  1. Narrow, and encourage many more visitors to, an already crowded part of the Thames Path National Trail
  2. Block the existing views of St Pauls and the City that open up as walkers emerge from under Waterloo Bridge (see image from Thames Central Open Spaces).
  3. Enclose currently public open space on both banks in order to provide access to a private space, frequently closed to the public, and in which 'acceptable' behaviour is set by an unelected, and unaccountable body.

Downstream view from the South Bank

Over time, these arguments, and those of the other organisations in the campaign became widely accepted, to the point that, when undertaking her review of the project, Margaret Hodge found that "the only people to express support for the Garden Bridge were the Trust itself, the Evening Standard and Boris Johnson".

What next for the Garden Bridge?

The Garden Bridge Trust have acknowledged that the construction costs of the bridge continue to escalate.  They have struggled since summer 2016 to attract pledges for its construction and are at least £60m short.  They have not negotiated access to either river bank.  Without a guarantee for future maintenance, they cannot start construction and, if they don't start construction by the end of the year, planning permissions start to lapse.  The project looks dead.

There's still a (slim) chance that the Garden Bridge Trust could revive the project by finding enough money to start construction and either a credible private sector guarantor of the maintenance costs or an endowment to cover it, negotiating access to the river banks, and commencing construction before December 2017.  This looks unlikely, but we will continue to oppose the Bridge until the Trust admits that the project is over.

What next for the Ramblers' Campaign?

The Garden Bridge, a project that was supposed to be entirely privately funded has spent £46m of public money without building anything.  By contrast, the TfL commissioned Millenium Bridge cost £18.2 million in 2000.  Other proposals for footbridges elsewhere on the Thames are estimated to cost around £25 million.  The Hodge Report raised stated that the processes for procuring the bridge " were not open, fair or competitive procurements".  Other campaigners are campaigning for those responsible for these decisions to be held accountable.

We look forward to working with TfL, the Mayor, and the GLA in progressing projects that will really deliver benefits to Londoners and visitors who want to experience our great city on foot.  In particular, we urge TfL to progress the proposed cycling and pedestrian bridge linking Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf, and to make it a fantastic experience for all users.

London mayoral candidate Diane Abbott has put forward an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons to debate the dubious merits of the Garden Bridge http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/240 

But she needs more MPs to back her up or it won’t stand a chance of being discussed so please contact your MP to get them to support this motion as it affects everyone. With £30m coming from Transport for London and £30m coming from the Treasury to fund the £175m Garden Bridge (even though it was supposed to be totally privately funded), other tightly squeezed budgets (e.g. healthcare, education, the economy) will have to compensate for this private folly.

We need cross-party opposition to this wasteful vanity project so here’s how to write to your MP to get them on board:  https://www.writetothem.com/

There's a template you can use here, but writing in your own words is more powerful.

Will Jennings, an artist whose concerns are sited in place, duration, materiality, loss and politics, has put together a site where people can propose alternative, equally ridiculous project for the public space being lost to the proposed Garden Bridge on London’s South Bank in a competition open to the public, A Folly for London.

Have a go. See if you can think of something even sillier than spending upwards of £60MM on a garden bridge that is neither a bridge nor a garden, while destroying historic views and open spaces on the most used national trail in the country.

Have a go here.

A Folly for London logo

On Wednesday the 3rd of June, the London Assembly voted against the Mayor’s current plans for the Garden Bridge.

A motion, which passed at a plenary session of the London Assembly, calls on the Mayor to carry out a full audit of the project’s funding, and to remove Transport for London (TfL) funding for a project which "serves no transport function".

The motion adds to the rising criticism of the project from a range of groups, including the RSPB and the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Full press release here.

In the fast moving campaign against the proposed Garden Bridge between the South Bank and Temple (organised by the Thames Central Open Spaces campaign), two big events took place today, 4th June 2015.

First, Lambeth Council have agreed that the open space on which the bridge will 'land' on the South Bank is an Asset of Community Value.  That means that, in the event of the land being offered to the Garden Bridge Trust, the 'community' has six months to raise the money to take it on instead.  Given that the council has been talking about letting the Garden Bridge Trust have. the land for a 'peppercorn rent', I'm sure we can raise a couple of peppercorns.

Then, the judicial review has been stopped because Lambeth Council, the Garden Bridge Trust and the courts have agreed a court order to come up with a £90MM bond (or similar) to cover annual maintenance of the bridge for the next 125 years or they will not be allowed to build the bridge. 

More details at the Thames Central Open Spaces website.

The campaign against the Garden Bridge is being run by Thames Central Open Spaces. They have been granted a judicial review into Lambeth Council's granting of planning permission (in part because of its lack of consideration of the impact on the Thames Path) and are crowd-funding it.

To help pay for this legal action to stop the Garden Bridge here: everyclick.com/tcos or text the code TCOS44 plus the donation amount to 70070 - don't forget to gift aid if you can.