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Tuesday22 August 2017

Architects and critics in last-minute plea to stop Garden Bridge

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Jonathan Meades and Edwin Heathcote write to sole Lambeth councillor who is set to make critical decision

Campaigners against the Garden Bridge today made a last-ditch bid to persuade Lambeth council to stop the bridge, dubbing it a “real tragedy not just for the South Bank but for London”.

Jonathan Meades, Owen Hatherley, Edwin Heathcote, Anna Minton and Walter Menteth signed an open letter urging Councillor Jack Hopkins to refuse to allow the Heatherwick-designed crossing to land on a small park on the South Bank.

Hopkins, Lambeth’s cabinet member for jobs and growth, is due to make the decision tomorrow under delegated authority. He has been advised by Sue Foster, the council’s strategic director of neighbourhoods and growth, who has written a report recommending approval.

But the opponents, led by Folly for London organiser Will Jennings, are appealing for a rethink.

The council has already granted planning permission for the bridge but, for it to be built, Lambeth must also agree to vary the terms of a lease on open space outside the ITV building. The variation would allow Coin Street Community Builders to grant a sub-lease to the Garden Bridge Trust.

The trust wants to build the bridge’s southern landing point on the grass there, along with lavatories, a commercial unit and queuing facilities.

The letter, one of several sent by opponents in the last 24 hours, argues that a building on the site would run “entirely counter to the freedom and openness of public space and deeply goes against the reasons the land is currently protected”.

“The land on the South Bank may not be one of London’s most beautiful public parks, but it is a public park and therefore worthy of considering with the same level of importance as any other part of London’s public greenspace,” it adds.

Building there would “destroy” the open promenade experience and turn a genuinely public space into a privately owned public space, it claims.

But in her report for Cllr Hopkins, Foster said the council expected the deal to generate a lot of money which would be split 50:50 between Lambeth and CSCB.

She wrote: “The council’s view is that the construction of the south landing building is an unprecedented windfall opportunity because it will enable a new and valuable and, most importantly, permanent income stream to be generated, albeit that the overall area of land available for temporary promotional events will be significantly reduced.” Her report was based on advice from the council’s finance, legal, democratic and procurement specialists, said a spokesman.

The letters by Jennings and three of the local residents’ co-operatives come amid a flurry of last-minute action on both sides.

Richard Rogers wrote to the Times this week opposing a call by RIBA president Jane Duncan to put the whole thing on hold so serious questions over its procurement could be investigated.

Rogers said every competition he had ever judged or won – including the Pompidou Centre – had been subject to criticism or challenge and he warned that “once a project is stopped, it is very unlikely that it will start again”.

The Garden Bridge would be “a great addition to London’s public domain by a greater designer”, he added.

A motion by Walter Menteth calling for the project’s suspension pending an investigation of the procurement process was due to be debated at the RIBA Council meeting earlier this month.

But it was withdrawn after Ben Derbyshire argued, in a letter obtained by BD, that this went beyond the institute’s “political reach and legitimacy” and was a case of bolting the stable door after the horse had bolted.

“I think we should pick our battles in Council with great care, and attempting to halt the bridge is not one I think we should engage in,” he wrote to fellow Council members.

Jane Duncan was contacted for comment.

Signatories to Will Jennings’ letter include

Jonathan Meades, writer & film maker

Edwin Heathcote, architecture and design critic of the Financial Times

Jack Self, director of the Real foundation & curator of the 2016 British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Walter Menteth, architect & RIBA Presidents’ Award for Research winner

Owen Hatherley, architectural writer & journalist

Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Lib Dems in the London Assembly and candidate for mayor of London

Bradley Garrett, social & cultural geographer

Anna Minton, writer & journalist

Adrian Searle, arts critic for the Guardian

David Roberts, co-director of art collective Fugitive Images and part of architecture collective Involve

Will Jennings, artist & organiser of A Folly For London

 

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Readers' comments (29)

  • STOP this ridiculous proposal! A garden bridge yes! But elewhere( east London where there aren't any crossings at present!) , done in a different way, in locations where it will inject "life" into an area! NOT WHERE it's proposed AT PRESENT! F.PImenidesHonFRIBA

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  • Munter Roe

    More chance of stopping the world turning at this stage it would appear

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  • Austin Clegg

    A brave try, but the horse bolted months ago.
    Boris likes this, so it will go ahead, end of story, money no object.

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  • Rogers seems to think that by saying that `every competition he has judged or won has been subject to criticism including the Pompidou Centre' he is scoring a point, but in fact it is an own-goal. Pompidou's own vision of a `Manhatanized' Paris is now regarded as something from which we had a lucky escape; the destruction of the historic townscape of Les Halles is now widely regretted, and the Forum des Halles universally regarded as a costly mistake. Gillian Tindall

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  • If an abuse of due process has been established, should this political affection ever get built, the legal process of making Bungling Boris personally responsible for the inevitable cost overruns and maintenance of the monstrosity needs to be considered. A judgement that BuBo's actions are “Ultra vires” could be be a very useful legal/financial precedent with which to inhibit similar conceits in future??

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  • Gob Bluth

    Why add your name at the end of a post when the author's title is already displayed above?

    Gob Bluth
    RIBA

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  • URGENT: 24 hours to object to ONE man deciding privatisation of public land for #Garden Bridge - deadline 24/3/16 http://goo.gl/O8Dbsp

    Visit tcos.org.uk for more ways to stop the Garden Bridge.
    Donate to campaign group Thames Central Open Spaces to help take this to the High Court everyclick.com/tcos

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  • Erm.... queuing facilities? really? how many other publicly owned bridges are there that require queuing facilities? This is not a transport link but a private park for the rich and powerful payed for by the public, most of whom do not live in London.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    THIS MUST NOT PASS

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  • The whole letter from A Folly For London and other signitories is published here:

    Www.afollyforlondon.co.uk/open-letters

    You can help too - email Cllr Jack Hopkins today before he makes his decision on Thursday:

    jhopkins@lambeth.gov.uk



    But this isn't a "last-minute" attempt and the horse hasn't bolted.

    The Garden Bridge Trust still don't have all planning conditions. They are £30m short of their private finance and don't seem to have raised a penny in 8 months. There are possible legal enquiries hanging over the procurement as well as Osborne's decision to give £30m of public money without following due process.

    There is also a likely Judicial Review from www.tcos.org.uk who have had far, far more individuals donating to stop the bridge than the few corporates who have donated to the GBT.

    It is hugely unlikely that even if the GBT get through all these hurdles they can start on site until late this year at the soonest, and as they repeatedly admit they have a tight deadline to get it started, are already many months late on their project timeline, and as it is an experimental engineering project and one by Heatherwick who tends to go over-budget on publicly funded gigs, this doesn't bode well for the final budget.

    I wonder who will pick up the overspend and budget shortfall? Not to mention the annual maintenance of £3.5m.

    All this expense. All this damage to the urban fabric. Why? Because one person has doggedly persued her own little dream and used her long list of personal contacts to enable it. It's shocking for democracy and transparency, and sticks a finger up at people who spend their careers trying to improve cities and think about how places can work for communities.

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