Computer rendering of the proposed bridge, created by engineers Arup
|Preceded by||Waterloo Bridge|
|Followed by||Blackfriars Bridge|
|Total length||367 metres (1,204 ft)|
|Width||30 metres (98 ft) (max, width varies)|
|Number of spans||three|
|Engineering design by||Arup|
|Construction cost||£185 million (estimate 2016)|
The Garden Bridge is a proposed pedestrian bridge over the River Thames in London, England. Consequent on an idea of Joanna Lumley, Thomas Heatherwick worked with Arup on a proposal by Transport for London for a new bridge across the Thames between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges. The proposed concrete, steel, cupronickel clad structure is intended to carry pedestrians. It would be located some 200m from Waterloo Bridge and 300m from Blackfriars Bridge, and would include areas of planted gardens. The project includes a commercial building, built on former green space at the southern end of the bridge. The bridge would be funded by £125 million of private money (including charitable gift aid) and £60 million of public money, of which £30m is from Transport for London (£20m of this to be repaid over 55 years) and £30m from the Department for Transport, adding up to £185m in total.
The bridge would be open on 365 days a year from 6am to midnight, save for closures for preparation for and holding up to 12 commercial private events, to raise funds. A planning condition requires annual maintenance costs to be guaranteed by a third party, originally intended to be the Greater London Authority. The maintenance costs are variously estimated at between £2m and £3.5m, before allowing for repayment of loan capital and interest.
In July 2016 preparatory work for the bridge was halted to allow for a financial review. In September 2016 the Mayor of London announced a formal review by Margaret Hodge of the procurement of the bridge project and the value for money it provided.
In October 2016 the National Audit Office reported (below) on procurement issues and perceived value for money for that part of the cost of the project which was being met by funds (£30m) from the Department for Transport.
The Garden Bridge Trust, a registered charity and private company limited by guarantee without share capital, and with an exemption from use of the term "Limited", is to own the bridge, as private space in the public realm. The company was incorporated on 30 October 2013 under reference 08755461. Lord Davies of Abersoch is chairman of the trust and a director of the limited company.
The bridge is planned to be 367 metres (1,204 ft) long and 30 metres (98 ft) across at its widest point. It would run from the roof of Temple station at the foot of Arundel Street on the north bank to Queen's Walk on the South Bank, where a public green open space would be built on to provide a commercial building associated with the bridge. The bridge would feature trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Its construction would require the felling of mature trees on both sides of the river, including 32 plane trees in the avenue on Queen's Walk which were planted in the 1960s as a living memorial to London's war dead. The bridge would be planted with some 270 immature trees. In order to limit the wind loading on the bridge structure the trees would be maintained so that they do not exceed a height of 15m at the bridge piers and 2m near the bridge landings. Dan Pearson has been appointed to arrange the planting.
Westminster Council raised concerns that the bridge would cause "significant harm" to a number of protected views from Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, and the South Bank, but concluded that new views from the garden bridge would outweigh the damage caused.
In November 2014, it was claimed that the bridge would be off limits to groups of eight or more people and to cyclists. The Garden Bridge Trust since stated that groups of eight or more would not be banned and cyclists would be allowed to use the bridge should they be willing to dismount and push their cycles.
The bridge is planned to be open to the public for 18 hours each day, closing between midnight and 6am, The draft business plan allows the Garden Bridge Trust to close the bridge for 12 days a year for events. Further, the charity proposes to rent the rooftop of the bridge's South Bank landing podium for commercial purposes on every weekend between May and October.
Nine bridges already span the two miles (3.2 km) between Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, seven of which can be crossed by foot. Projections of visitor numbers suggest that the bridge would add another 3.5 million visitors a year, an 18% increase on 2014 numbers. In 2014, critics of the project began campaigning to have it brought under judicial review or another appeal process through the secretary of state.
In November 2015, planning documents for the bridge revealed that public access to the bridge would be heavily controlled, including tracking visitors' mobile phone signals to guard against overcrowding, a video surveillance system and security staff known as "visitor hosts" who would have limited policing powers under a Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, including the right to issue fines. The rules of the bridge were to prohibit "any exercise other than jogging, playing a musical instrument, taking part in a 'gathering of any kind', giving a speech or address, scattering ashes, releasing a balloon and flying a kite."
At a meeting at City Hall on 17 December 2015, Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London said, in defence of the project, "It's important that we don't rest on our laurels, but continue to adorn the city with things that will attract visitors … and to get it done within a four-year mayoralty is a very challenging thing."
By August 2016, the proposed cost of the bridge had risen to £185 million, from the original estimate of £60m. When first promoted, it was claimed that the project would be financed entirely from private sources, but a total of £60m towards the capital cost was then committed from public funds, with £30m pledged from Transport for London funds by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and £30m pledged by HM Treasury.
Further, the City of Westminster granted planning permission conditionally upon provision of a guarantee of maintenance costs. The Greater London Authority initially indicated willingness to underwrite those maintenance costs, estimated at a minimum of £2m a year, in perpetuity. In June 2013, the Commissioner of Transport for London, Sir Peter Hendy had stated that the public would meet no more than the "enabling costs" of the project of £4m. Nevertheless, the financial chief for Transport for London considered the proposed bridge extremely expensive when compared with other crossings on the Thames. For example, the Millennium Bridge had cost only £22m.
Writing in the Guardian in February 2016, Ian Jack contrasted the £60m taxpayer support for the project with the closure of five Lancashire museums – two of which are nationally important – and 40 libraries. Jack described the bridge as unwanted and unnecessary and the closures as "cultural disembowelment." He asked whether a meeting between Joanna Lumley, a friend of designer Thomas Heatherwick and Boris Johnson had played a part. Jane Duncan, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects requested the project be put on hold pending an investigation of the tendering process for the appointments of Heatherwick Studio and Arup. Ian Jack followed up in May with another article calling the bridge an oddity born of the chumocracy, and correspondents (from outside London) were equally scathing.
On 16 February 2016 Project Compass published a detailed report on the irregularities in the appointment of Arup Group and Thomas Heatherwick by Transport for London; the report concluded that an independent investigation would be appropriate before the public made any further financial commitment to the project.
a whopping £85 million had been privately donated; the Treasury and Transport for London had come up with £60 million and fundraising continues for the final £30 million. Construction will soon begin. Yet there is a small but determined opposition to the project, mostly from Labour, which continues to undermine it.
Sadiq Khan, who was elected Mayor of London in May 2016, undertook investigation of Johnson's decisions in relation to the procurement process for the bridge. In May 2016, he published a draft version of the Garden Bridge Trust business case for the bridge which showed that donations to the Trust from unnamed private companies, organisations and individuals totalled £83.1 million, representing the privately pledged money, this included £43.75m from donors who chose to remain anonymous. London Assembly Member Tom Copley called for transparency on private donations to the project, asking if donations had been received from companies which may benefit or have benefitted from Transport for London contracts.
In July 2016 Dan Anderson of Fourth Street published a review of the Garden Bridge's Draft Operations and Maintenance Business Plan. Anderson's report concluded that "After detailed analysis of the Operations and Maintenance Business Plan it is this author's considered opinion that the basic business model is flawed and the Business Plan targets are optimistic at best, but more likely unachievable".
On 11 July 2016 the BBC reported that preparatory work for the bridge had been halted to allow City Hall to review finance. The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said that no more public money would be spent on the bridge. The halted work would have cost £3m for infrastructure preparation in the Tube station at Temple on the north bank of the Thames so the bridge structure could be built on the station roof. A Garden Bridge Trust spokesman said that the Garden Bridge Trust had signed a costs agreement with TfL which included a repayment schedule.
On 26 July 2016 the BBC reported that the project had run into financial trouble and that the Garden Bridge Trust was seeking an extension of a £15m underwriting of the project: "tough questions are being asked in Whitehall about the footbridge and its public value". The additional assurance of the underwriting extension was needed in order for the Garden Bridge Trust to complete and file its statutory accounts, due on 31 July 2016. However, on Friday 29 July 2016, the last day on which it could validly do so, the Garden Bridge Trust changed its accounting reference date so as to extend its accounting period from 31 October 2015 to 31 March 2016, a further five months, postponing its obligation to file any accounts.
On 8 August 2016 the National Audit Office formally announced that during Autumn 2016 it was to investigate the Department for Transport’s handling of its £30 million grant to the Garden Bridge project. The audit would not look to conclude upon the value for money of the project as a whole. The Director of the audit team was to be Rebecca Sheeran. The National Audit Office invited submission of evidence for its investigation. The National Audit Office duly reported in October 2016 (below).
In an interview with Evan Davis on BBC Newsnight on 17 August 2016 Lord Davies of Abersoch said that the Garden Bridge Trust had raised some £69.5 million ("call it £70 million") of private funds in addition to £60 million of public funds. Some who had offered funding had never entered into legally binding commitments to pay and "one or two" had withdrawn from the project. Further, delays in the project now meant that the costs had risen to £185 million and that the bridge would not be completed before 2019. The figures of increased cost and the reduction in funds raised, together with the longer timescale, were then confirmed by the Garden Bridge Trust.
In September 2016 the Mayor of London announced a formal review into the finances of the project, and its value for money. Dame Margaret Hodge was to conduct an inquiry into the planned £185m structure and publish her findings in full. The mayor's office said she would investigate whether value for money had been achieved from the taxpayers' contribution and investigate the work of bodies such as Transport for London and the Greater London Authority.
National Audit Office report
On 11 October 2016 the National Audit Office reported the results of its inquiries into the £30 million funding provided for the Garden Bridge by the Department for Transport. The report recorded that in the Department's assessment of the original business case for the Bridge, there was seen to be a significant risk that the project could represent poor value for money but the Department agreed to make the £30 million contribution anyway. The manner in which the funding was provided, by block grant to Transport for London left the Department with limited oversight of its own support to the Garden Bridge Trust. This arrangement simplified the Trust’s access to public funding through a single source but it also made TfL responsible for assuring and overseeing all of the £60 million public funding and for ensuring value for money for taxpayers’ investment. There was initially a cap on the amount of the Department's funding that could be used by the Garden Bridge Trust for pre-construction activitity, but this cap was relaxed on three separate occasions, on two of those occasions against the advice of civil servants and on one of them by way of formal Ministerial Direction from the Secretary of State. The report summarised that:
If the project continues, it is possible that the government will be approached for extra funding should the Trust face a funding shortfall. The project has faced cost increases and delays to the schedule. The pattern of behaviour outlined in this report is one in which the Trust has repeatedly approached the government to release more of its funding for pre-construction activities when it encounters challenges. The Department, in turn, has agreed to the Trust’s requests.
Initial planning approval
The full planning applications for the project were submitted to Westminster and Lambeth Councils on 30 May 2014, and it was originally intended, subject to receiving planning permission and raising the necessary funds, that construction of the bridge would start in 2015 and be completed by 2018. The planning application was approved by Lambeth Council (local authority on the south side of the bridge), subject to conditions, in November 2014. Westminster City Council passed a plan for the bridge on 2 December 2014 by a vote of three to one. In December 2014, Boris Johnson approved the scheme to build the bridge, with construction then expected to start in 2015.
In January 2015, a legal challenge of Lambeth's planning permission was brought by Michael Ball, director of the Waterloo Community Development Group. On 21 April 2015, permission was granted by The Hon. Mr Justice Ouseley for a full judicial review of the project. However, the case was dropped after the trust agreed to fund maintenance costs. The Greater London Authority remains the guarantor for the maintenance costs if the private owners are not able to raise the funds.
Lease and permission
On 25 September 2015, Lambeth Council suspended negotiations with the Garden Bridge Trust over the terms of the lease, which would be required at the South Bank end of the bridge. Lambeth's position was that funds for the bridge should not be provided by Transport for London, that the £30m of funding from Transport for London was not justified, and that Lambeth would permit the bridge only if it was assured that the project's funds would not be taken from Transport for London. Negotiations were resolved in November 2015.
However, in March 2016 it was reported that Lambeth Council had put the necessary lease modifications in place. Permission from the Coin Street Community Builders, a housing trust which holds a long term lease over part of the land needed to construct the southern approaches, is also required for the bridge's construction. In March 2016, in "a last ditch" attempt to stop the bridge, local politicians wrote to the housing trust urging it to refuse permission, although the housing trust indicated that it was not in a position to oppose the decisions of elected governments.
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