After gaining the first in a series of required planning approvals last week, Thomas Heatherwick's highly controversial Garden Bridge proposal has once again come under fire from a variety of opponents, with campaign group Thames Central Open Space (TCOS) dubbing it a "luvvies' folly," and the Guardian's architecture critic Oliver Wainwright saying that it is "not in fact a bridge – in the sense of being a public right of way across the river – but another privately managed tourist attraction, on which £60m of public money is to be lavished."
Much of this new assault is the result of the 46 conditions which came with Lambeth Council's recommendation to grant the bridge planning approval, which as BD Online uncovered, include closing the bridge between 12 and 6am, a ban on cycling, and a restriction of group sizes to 8 people or fewer, unless booked in advance.
Wainwright has been vocal on the issue of the Garden Bridge before, pointing out in June that if built, it will be the fifth bridge in just a one-mile stretch of the Thames, while East of Tower Bridge the river is bridge-free for over 16 miles. The new revelations brought by Lambeth's planning conditions simply add ammunition to his earlier accusation that the Garden Bridge will be "a spectacular solution to a problem that doesn't really exist," with Wainwright speculating that "a limit on group sizes suggests a ticketing system will have to be put in place," and now calling it a "grand mayoral project of most opaque origins, which appears to have been fast-tracked through the system" in reference to the fervent support that the bridge has received from London mayor Boris Johnson.
In addition to Wainwright's objections, TCOS has highlighted that the bridge could potentially block views of London landmarks, and the fact that the Treasury and Transport for London have each pledged £30 million of public funds to the bridge's construction. A spokesperson from TCOS stated that "the taxpayer should not be bearing a £60 million cost for a transport project that excludes bicycles. The opportunity to walk across London in a whimsical environment should not outweigh the significant harm the bridge would do to the Thames and its protected views."
In support of Lambeth Council's long list of conditions for the bridge, a council spokesperson stated: "Our duty is to make sure we have a scheme that works in practice and our planning team have been working with the Garden Bridge Trust to make sure there are appropriate measures in place to accommodate the number of potential visitors, and there’s a suitable management plan in place for maintenance."
Safety has been used to support a number of the council's conditions, with the document stating that cyclists may push their bikes, but if they were allowed to ride, then the size of the pathways would have to be increased, and the amount of planting reduced. Furthermore, their stipulation that groups must be no more than 8 people "would not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge."
However, coming to the defense of the Garden Bridge, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust Lord Mervyn Davies stated: "The support for the bridge has been overwhelming. The trust also acknowledges some concerns have been raised, but continues to work closely with local communities to address them."