Thursday24 August 2017

‘Garden Bridge should not be built,’ says furious St Paul’s Cathedral

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Church says it wasn’t consulted about the plans

The country’s most famous church has intervened in the debate over Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge, saying it should not be built.

St Paul’s Cathedral wrote to Westminster council arguing it would have an “irreversible impact” on views of the cathedral.

It expressed concern about the bridge and the consultation process just days before a council planning meeting last week which eventually gave it the green light – despite Westminster’s own report saying it would have been thrown out if it were a private development.

In his letter, seen by BD, the cathedral’s surveyor to the fabric, Oliver Caroe, tells Westminster’s team leader for its south area, Godfrey Woods, that St Paul’s was not even consulted about the plans.

He writes: “Our primary reason for concern is that, after due enquiry, the cathedral can currently find no record of having been consulted on this proposal by the applicant [Garden Bridge Trust] or any of the statutory bodies who have responsibility for advising on or determining this matter.”


Design for the Garden Bridge

Source: Arup

St Paul’s Cathedral has said that views of it from the Thames will be lost forever if the Garden Bridge gets built


Caroe, who is a director of Caroe Architecture, says building the bridge will mean “there will be irreversible impacts on some of the most iconic views of St Paul’s Cathedral, to the detriment of our capital city.

“Your own report spells out the harms, not just to the protected views from Waterloo Bridge and the South Bank but also to kinetic and incidental views (both at day and at night) that London currently freely enjoys.

“The significance and value of these views does not yet appear to have been fully evaluated and understood. Once harmed, these views will not be recovered.”

Caroe says that the application should be refused because the Garden Bridge Trust has not “adequately evidenced their own mitigation argument” over the damage to the views.

The trust did not provide photomontages of the new views as they would appear from the bridge before the planning meeting, something the Westminster planning officers’ report said was “unfortunate”.

“As defined in the National Planning Policy Framework, where there is ‘significant harm’ to a heritage asset, the applicant must provide a proportionate assessment of analysis and mitigation arguments,” Caroe wrote.

“We would therefore contend, in the absence of a complete and well-evidenced appraisal of the harms, that this application should not have been registered. We would further argue that, without sufficient evidence, Westminster city council planning committee should now decline this current application.”

And he raised concerns about the maintenance of the bridge and whether there will be enough money to look after it properly.

“Informed expert opinion suggests that there is a real risk that the Garden Bridge will not be sustainable in financial and management terms.”

He said that the cathderal was worried about plants failing to grow properly or not being looked after. “Both prospects appear to be equally real,” he said. “These risks are so fundamental to the question of justification for this application that we hope your committee will adopt a precautionary stance.”

Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, who chaired the planning committee, said: “I understand the concerns about potential loss of views but there is no doubting that this bridge will bring substantial and significant benefits to London.”

The scheme still has to be approved by London mayor Boris Johnson before work can start at the beginning of 2016 and be completed by the middle of 2018.


Heatherwick's garden Bridge over the Thames

Around 1,700 people an hour are expected to use the bridge on Saturdays



Readers' comments (19)

  • The bridge will bring new, good views of St. Paul's. Photography and appreciation of St Paul's is likely to increase because of the Garden Bridge.

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  • The cathedral could have added that this gratuitous project will divert charitable resources away from many more socially beneficial works. Not a planning matter admittedly, more an ethical consideration. But it should be a question of conscience whether this scale of capital and revenue costs on a vanity project can be justified in a city where inequalities are as extreme as this one.

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  • Quite amazed that the cathedral actually spoke! Not only that, it also wrote a letter! Crikey, is that some sort of miracle building?

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  • The mayor wants to sell the river to the highest bidder, but could it be that we have to rely on a church for sense? Do views matter? They do. Protect the river and our right to views across it!

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  • it will be private land.
    picnics not allowed.
    cyclists or even people pushing bikes banned.
    groups of 8 or more people must ask permission in advance.

    its a joke, if this bridge would EVER be granted permission it must be public land not private.

    it is only a matter of time until planning applications are put in for cafes, bars and hotels otherwise

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  • B_R_A_S_S_M_A_N

    Is this Bridge and its supposed 'view blocking' a smokescreen to divert our attention away from the issue that hundreds of ill considered skyscrapers, which negatively alter and block views throughout London, are being waved through planning? No. Although in the future you might be lucky to be able to see the bridge.

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  • Alan Davidson cannot know that the bridge will 'bring new, good views of St Paul's', because promoters of the scheme (incl TfL) have failed to evidence this - a key point being made by the representatives of the cathedral. What IS known, and acknowledged (among other things), is that views of St Paul's from the South Bank will be completely obscured from a stretch of the riverwalk longer than the bridge itself. All concerned parties should now be writing to the Secretary of State demanding the application be called in. Only the detailed assessment and scrutiny of a public inquiry will determine appropriately whether the suggested benefits of the bridge outweigh the undoubted and irreparable harm it will cause to views and the wider amenity of this much-loved part of central London.

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  • Completely agree. Views will be affected. And also it's horrendously costly. No guarantee of maintenance. And will be policed as private land. Just imagine the problems for law enforcement, which will be real concern, as 8 people is not a big group at all. The answer should be no to such extravaganza.

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  • Now that St. Pauls has entered the fray, God preserve us from what would a ghastly excrescence on London, views and all. It would be a complete folly to build this folly, so hopefully the powers that be will see sense -something we could not expect of London's mayor.

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  • Absolutely right - even Westminster council admited it will wreck the views but strangely still approved it - To stop this mad, inappropriate personal vision driven by an absolutely celebrity actress is going to be difficult. ANY negative design critisicm these days now seems dismissed as NIMBYism, winging, jealousy or worse. Start by signing the petition and getting your friends to at https://www.change.org/p/eric-pickles-boris-johnson-put-the-garden-bridge-where-it-s-needed-or-not-at-all

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