Wasteminster Council: robbing London of millions of pounds and openly admitting to substantially har
Public subsidy: The phoney ‘private funding’ tag is exposed now that Westminster have required that Boris and TfL underwrite the £3.5m annual maintenance costs. So all Londoners are going to pay for this, with already squeezed streets budgets having to be slashed further to cover this. Westminster Council don’t want to get lumbered with the running costs which the GB Trust clearly won’t be able to raise annually. But is this value for money? No. By contrast it costs £800k to maintain the Hungerford Bridges. And how does it fit in with the cuts to parks funding that George Osborne will announce tomorrow?
How do we know the Trust are nowhere near being able to cover this cost themselves? They produced a draft business plan for the maintenance, which they’ve kept under wraps which proposes they will raise £500k p.a. from 10 corporate events a year, another £500k from renting out spaces at each end of the Bridge every weekend from May-Sept; and another £500k from an annual gala. This is mad. Will any millionaires really be attending a gala for a tired bridge in 20 years time and throwing half a million in the pot every year?
Westminster's Hypocrisy: Cllr Robert Davis has led the charge against tall buildings from the City to Vauxhall over the past decade because of the damage to heritage assets and views, especially the Westminster World Heritage Site. Various towers have been approved by Boris/ Ken, Lambeth and Southwark because of the public benefits they purportedly bring which outweighs the harm to heritage. But Davis won’t accept the public benefit argument and has spent millions on fighting these schemes at inquiry and in court…until now. Although his officer’s report warns him the GB will cause substantial harm to heritage assets all over the shop, Davis proclaims that the huge public benefit of a pedestrian bridge and a garden outweighs the harm.
Waterloo’s Sunset: the broad expansive open sweep of the river at Waterloo Bridge in the foreground, is what makes the views there THE iconic views of London. This open sweep will be foreshortened and enclosed, hemming in Somerset House between the bridges, truncating views along the South Bank and just generally making London smaller, diminishing the majesty of the Thames. The Garden Bridge offers new foreshortened views of St. Paul’s and the Houses of Parliament - but not both at once. You have to move across some shrubs and hundreds of people to see one or the other - unlike Waterloo Bridge which currently offers a full 360 degree panorama of London. The GBT failed to provide photomontages of their new views yet Westminster ascertained that they would be acceptable from gazing into an imaginary crystal ball.
What’s next? Boris will obviously wave it through in coming weeks. But if any scheme anywhere is ‘of more than local concern’ (the formula for the Secretary of State calling the application in) it is this, affecting four local authorities, in the most delicate of spots, to be enjoyed by the whole world. So we will be urging Pickles to call in the application for a full public inquiry. If he fails to do so he may find himself explaining to the High Court why he didn’t. Alternatively Lambeth’s or Westminster’s decision could be judicially reviewed by locals who are furious. In the meantime the GB Trust have got to do a lot of negotiating to do with the local authorities and landowners to deal with the 46 conditions imposed before they can even begin constructing the Bridge. The idea that they can complete this and raise the money and purchase the land required, and then open by 2018 is laughable.