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Thursday24 August 2017

Westminster says Garden Bridge would be thrown out if it was ‘private development’

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Despite its ‘significant harm’ to views, council says it should be approved tomorrow night because it is open to public

Westminster council has admitted that Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge would be thrown out if it was a private development – but is instead recommending it be approved because it is a “public facility”.

Planners at the council will vote tomorrow night on the plans, which have already been OK’d by the other planning authority involved in the £175 million scheme, Lambeth.

A report drawn up by Westminster’s planning officers says the scheme should be passed because “the iconic design of the bridge, the new viewpoints it will create and the proposed high-quality landscaped open space will create a popular visitor attraction that will enhance Westminster’s World City function”.

But it has angered opponents of the bridge by conceding that the bridge will cause “significant harm” to views downstream of St Paul’s Cathedral and the City beyond, admitting it would be thrown out if a scheme of the same height was a private development.

It said: “It is considered that there can be little doubt that the garden bridge will cause significant harm to established views of importance, including designated LVMF [London View Management Framework] views.

“It is also clear that if this proposal was for a private commercial development of this height and size, the harm to these views would be considered unacceptable and the application refused. However, this proposal is for a public facility, or at least one that will be open to the public for the majority of the time. The proposal promises public benefits and the opportunity for the public to enjoy new river views.”

The report said it was “unfortunate” the Garden Bridge Trust had not provided photomontages of the new views as they would appear from the bridge but added: “The applicant [Garden Bridge Trust] advises that there are technical difficulties for providing this information. Whilst it would be highly desirable to have photomontages of the new views, they are not considered essential to the consideration of the application.”

Those worried by the impact on views include the City of London which in the Westminster report warns: “The provision of a new public pedestrian crossing across the river which potentially enhances the attractiveness and accessibility of central London could be seen as a public benefit to be weighed against the loss of significant views of St Paul’s and the City skyline particularly when the bridge is closed.”

 

Garden Bridge

Two lifts are proposed at the Temple end of the bridge, with each able to carry 17 people

 

Critics have pointed out Westminster opposed a number of other schemes it said would impact on views such as David Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House, where the council went to the High Court to try and get communities secretary Eric Pickles to call it in after neighbouring council, Lambeth, the borough where it will be built, approved it.

A spokeswoman for anti-bridge campaign group Thames Central Open Space said: “Westminster has a duty to give special regard to the desirability of preserving protected views, particularly those of listed buildings and their setting, conservation areas, and other heritage assets. Under [deputy leader] Robert Davis they have an admirable track record of doing so. The officers have rightly identified the harm caused by the Garden Bridge to the protected views as substantial. But they then apply the wrong tests.

“Both policy in the NPPF and case law require Westminster to give special weight to the desirability of preserving the protected views of heritage assets and to require the applicant [the Garden Bridge Trust] to provide evidence to demonstrate that the substantial harm is necessary to achieve substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm. But the applicants haven’t even identified what the potential new views would be, let alone established that they would provide substantial benefit which outweighs the substantial harm, or demonstrated that the harm is necessary.”

 

Garden Bridge 1

Opponents including Arundel Great Court claim that estimates of the number of people visiting the site are short and that peak demand, such as the near 1,700 people an hour predicted on Saturdays, could be double

 

As BD revealed last month, the bridge will be shut for six hours a day which Westminster said needed looking at. “There is a strong argument that in order to maximise the public benefits of the bridge, it should be open for longer.”

And it questioned whether insisting groups of eight or more let the Trust know they were planning to visit the bridge was really enforceable. “Further discussions on this matter are required as it is not clear how this would be implemented or managed,” the report said.

Under the proposals, cyclists will be allowed to push their bikes over the bridge but Westminster said “further restrictions” might be needed during peak periods.

Council worries over ‘commercialisation’

In its report, the council has warned the Garden Bridge Trust that it will lose goodwill very quickly if it gives in to “creeping commercialisation”.

The bridge has already been handed nearly £70 million in public funds for its construction with the remaining money expect to be provided by the private sector. The bridge is expected to be shut for 12 days a year for fundraising events to help it meet an annual maintenance bill of £3.5 million, as part of its Operations and Maintenance Business Plan (OMBP).

“It is defined as a garden bridge with a unique visual quality secured through the planting scheme and which can be accessed by the public without charge.

“If this fails, or even falls below the well-publicised expectations, then the exceptional circumstances justifying such an intervention with its impact on cherished views will soon fall away. The OMBP will only be acceptable if it can demonstrate a reduction to an acceptable level of the likelihood of creeping commercialisation, manifested as a decline in maintenance standards and an increase in commercial events in the event that current funding stream[s] prove inadequate.”

 

Design for the Garden Bridge

Source: Arup

 

 

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Readers' comments (20)

  • The Open Space people are dead right. The public benefit of a new crossing does NOT justify the harm to zillions of views because the trees are not necessary to provide that benefit.

    London is already full of trees. Please don't put them on the river!!!

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  • This project looks increasingly like a contender for the visual dictionary entry for 'fait accompli'.

    Intrigued to know what could *possibly* be preventing The Garden Bridge Trust providing renders from whatever angle required given the capabilities of today's 3D software - sounds very fishy to me. Hays Davidson could produce an image from any imaginable vantage point - but The Garden Bridge Trust simply don't want them to as they know the rendered views generated would be a deal-breaker.

    Oh, the power of icon, celebrity in our era.

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  • Every since the Rialto bridge and Ponte Vecchio and that fabulous Galata bridge in Istanbul, there has been a search to do the same in many cities. This is not to say this is an incorrect ambition just a fanaticism of the human sense of fascination! Bridges in cities with rivers are obvious , they help in the connectivity and therefore the life of the city and to a certain degree enhance the business and social habits of the population.
    What do we have here?........a sort of linear park on the water. If we are going to all this effort ( and I assume a large carbon consumption) let’s see a more animated crossing which could perhaps police itself (security this park would be an issue) and perhaps some connectivity with a transport system – which would really bring this together. Otherwise this becomes another London Eye which is interesting but hardly a sensible use of public funds. I would say solving London garbage issue from the dumping deport at Battersea ( a depot for four London boroughs) to the sea-dumping more worthy.

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  • "The applicant [Garden Bridge Trust] advises that there are technical difficulties for providing this information."
    Surely these are a necessary part of the environmental impact assessment which should be the prerequisite to any planning consideration of such a scheme. If these are missing or incomplete, any responsible planning authority should simply send the application back as incomplete and not comment until it has the information to make an informed judgement.

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  • This proves that the so-called protected views are outdated and not suitable to a dynamic city like London. They should not be given much weight in planning applications.

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  • Corporate power is running rings around attempts to limit it in the public interest. We should be wary of those who call this 'dynamic' and dismiss such attempts at control as outdated.

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  • Yeah @Steve Green, you'll be happy when I propose a tower in front of your house blocking your view.

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  • As with everything Heatherwick churns out there is a DISTINCT lack of context and sensitivity but we all knew that and know it wont change sadly.
    These so called not important renders/ views... call them what you may are seemingly of a high importance and if the Garden Bridge Trust won't make them I'm sure someone around here could have a stab in some way, shape or form.

    It's not just about saving these wonderful and iconic views, it's the principle.
    It seems you can label something "for the public" and it will just glide through planning and all the hoops it has to. But if it were to be commercial it would be refused... well the same must be said for the bridge too. It's hardly for the public if there are so many forms and memberships to sign up for.

    The councils involved need to get their heads in the game and stop counting all their bribery money or whatever it is Heatherwick and Joana Lumely offered them!

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  • The only impediment in producing the views with which the impact of this bridge could be objectively appraised is the fact that they would be so damning as to kill the project stone dead.
    It is glaringly obvious to anyone familiar with this site that a bridge of this height with 15m trees on it in this location would completely block views of St. Paul's and the City skyline from The South Bank, Victoria Embankment, as well as from Hungerford and Waterloo bridges.
    It is a scandal that neither Lambeth nor Westminster planning authorities have required such impact studies before rendering judgement.
    That it should be down to initiatives such as Thames Central Open Space to thematise this (and probably they will end up producing the missing renderings to prove the point and kill the thing) is a damning indictment of the planning process in the capital.

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  • Technical difficulties? Pick up a pencil and some paper!

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