top of page

Judicial Review - GRANTED

We are pleased to announce that Michael Ball has been successful in gaining a judicial review against planning permission for the wasteful £175m Garden Bridge. Here is a personal letter from the Michael:

Dear Friends

I have this week received news that my request to the High Court for a judicial review of the planning permission for the Garden Bridge has been granted, and that the case will be heard some time before the end of June.

I have been involved in planning matters for twenty years, but this is the first time I have personally sought a judicial review. I was spurred to do this by the overwhelming strength of feeling locally against this vanity project, and the abysmal failure of decision-makers to deal with the very obvious problems.

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, the proposal is to build a ‘garden bridge’ from near the Oxo tower on the South Bank to the Temple tube station on the north. Doesn’t that sound nice? The images are pretty. Many of us thought so until we examined the details.

The bridge will take pedestrians only – bikes are banned – but unlike the Millennium Bridge it will be a private highway with no right of way, closed at night and closed around twenty days a year for corporate events and the like. Access will be controlled, and although it is meant to be free, this may change in the future. It is unnecessary, since there are other bridges within 300 metres.

The ‘garden’ element consists of an area less than half a football pitch strung along the 300m bridge. There will be no grass to sit on and picnics are banned. There are doubts about the ability of trees and shrubs to thrive in the relatively hostile environment in the middle of a large river, and the RSPB, London Wildlife Trust and the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association have all withdrawn their support.

A large retail building will stand where the bridge lands on the South Bank, destroying a rare piece of grassed open space almost the same size as the greened areas of the bridge, along with thirty mature trees.

At £175m it is extremely costly. By contrast, the Millennium Bridge cost £22m and a new pedestrian and cycle bridge at Nine Elms will cost £40m. A new park such as Jubilee Gardens – providing three times as much green space, and covered in picnickers – cost only £6m.

The cost might not matter if it were to be met by private donors, as originally proposed. But Boris Johnson and George Osborne have ‘donated’ £60m of public funds between them, and Boris has footed an additional £4m bill so far. The running costs of the bridge are also staggeringly high at £3.5m annually, and Boris has agreed to underwrite this at a potential total cost of a further £90m.

Still, if money were no object, this might be a nice idea. But there are huge problems:

Firstly, the bridge will completely block views of St Paul’s from along the South Bank: one of the greatest urban riverwalks in Europe will have its best views closed down. The majestic sweep of open river at the heart of the capital will be lost. To illustrate this I have attached images below provided by the developers themselves.

Secondly, the bridge is expected to attract 7 million visitors annually, more than any other attraction in the UK (by comparison the London Eye gets 2.5m visitors annually, the British Museum 6m, and Disneyland Paris 9m). But the bridge can hold only 2,500 people, so long queues are predicted at busy times such as weekends and holidays. The South Bank is already very busy, and the developers admit that at times it will become very uncomfortable in the vicinity of the bridge, with congestion akin to tube platforms in the rush hour.

In fact I am seriously concerned about public safety on very busy days, with visitors on the South Bank trapped at key pinch points between the garden bridge and the Millennium Bridge, where the riverwalk narrows to 2.5m at points. Football-match sized crowds will be generated on busy days – and yet, extraordinarily, the Metropolitan Police have not been consulted on the crowd management off the bridge.

Finally, on top of all of this, and most bizarrely, there will be no toilets provided whatsoever. Come to the South Bank, get a coffee in the huge retail building, queue for an hour for the UK’s busiest tourist attraction… but hold on to your bladder!

I have met a lot of people who have got increasingly concerned about this. We have formed a new group – Thames Central Open Spaces – and have been campaigning hard. Many powerful critical articles have appeared in the press such as this

But why did Lambeth Council grant planning permission for this bridge? Lambeth will suffer the brunt of the impact, with its best views trashed and all of the servicing and most of the construction taking place on the South Bank. The hundreds of Lambeth residents living close to the bridge will have their home life ruined. The rubbish alone will fill dozens of wheelie bins daily. It’s not as if the area needs another tourist attraction – it already has 22 arts facilities and 25 million visitors a year.

I have talked to decision-makers from the leaders of councils and chief officers to humble ward councillors and planning officials and I cannot find genuine support for the garden bridge. There is a general hope among decision-makers that it will just go away. And, with some honourable exceptions, there is a general fear not to be seen opposing it and be accused of being ‘anti-fun’.

But this project will not just go away. It has the powerful support of Boris Johnson, who has behaved simply bizarrely – most recently, publicly denying that he will underwrite the £90m running costs, while his chief officers write letters which have been submitted to the courts stating that he will indeed cover these costs.

My High Court challenge is to the granting of planning permission. Without this, the bridge cannot be built here – although it would be perfectly possible for its proponents to try and put in a more suitable location, such as further east, where river crossings are desperately needed.

The process is not free. I already have pledges of several thousand pounds, and I hope all the costs can be recovered through ‘crowdfunding’. If all the thousands of people who have signed petitions against the bridge gave a few pounds I would have all the costs covered. You can donate easily on line by going to and I will get an additional 25% if you gift aid it (just click on the tab).

If anyone wants to help then please do get in touch. The best thing you can do is forward this email to your friends and talk about it, write about it, tweet about it, speak out about it, sign the on-line petition and tell anyone who seeks your vote over the next few weeks what you think.

Hopefully I’ll be back soon with better news.

All the best

Michael Ball

Sign the petition at


We are dedicated to saving public space on the South Bank and over the River Thames. The controversial Garden Bridge is not needed here, it would destroy protected views and is democratically and environmentally damaging. Help us stop this now.




12/6/19 Garden Bridge failure should be likened to Kids Company scandal, MPs told

17/3/19 Minister: it’s ‘unfortunate’ we spent £43m on Garden Bridge

13/2/19 Garden bridge charity spent £53.5m with no construction, TfL finds

12/12/18 Garden Bridge Trust claims £5m of public money for wind-up costs

31/7/18 Garden Bridge backers 'may have breached legal duties'

31/7/18 Garden Bridge trustees may have ‘breached their legal duties’ says QC

01/03/18 Boris Johnson defends garden bridge plan that will cost public £46m

01/03/18 Boris Johnson blames Garden Bridge project blunders on successor

28/02/18 Boris Johnson could face investigation over Thames garden bridge

14/8/17 London's Garden Bridge project officially abandoned

14/8/17 London's Garden Bridge project scrapped

6/7/17 Soothing the Garden Bridge’s troubled waters

22/6/17 Standards commissioner examines complaint against Garden Bridge review

11/5/17 Good riddance to the Garden Bridge: an eye-watering waste of public funds by Walter Menteth

29/4/17 Lumley fights on for her fabulous bridge


28/4/17 The garden bridge is dead – now £37m of public money must be repaid


28/4/17 Garden Bridge: London mayor Sadiq Khan withdraws support


16/4/17 Garden bridge project is a landmark of the post-truth era

15/4/17 A garden bridge to nowhere

7/4/17 Garden Bridge should be scrapped, Hodge review finds


27/3/17 Garden Bridge could cost £22 million more than forecast

10/3/17 MP warns mayor over Garden Bridge’s cost to taxpayer


28/2/17 Garden Bridge Trust cleared of financial irregularities

23/2/17 Top criminal QC raises ‘serious concerns’ over Garden Bridge contest

9/2/17 London garden bridge case weaker now than in 2014, says Treasury official

8/2/17 Garden Bridge: all-party pressure on Sadiq not to sign guarantee

15/1/17 Let’s not be led any further up the garden bridge


11/01/17 London garden bridge project's future is in doubt, say trustees

5/01/17 "If 2016 was the Year of Bullshit, then the Garden Bridge could be its monument”

27/12/16 Garden bridge charity warns more delays could terminate project

16/12/16 MPs investigating Garden Bridge question need for scheme

14/12/16 Letter from PAC chair Meg Hillier to  Treasury Permanent Secretary

9/11/16 TCOS response to the GBT's misleading autumn newsletter

16/10/16 Controversial garden bridge to cost public total of £50m – even if it fails to go ahead

11/10/16 Mayor must refuse to sign the Garden Bridge maintenance guarantee: statement on NAO report

11/10/16 David Cameron 'ignored civil servants over Garden Bridge funding'

11/10/16 Department for Transport ignored official advice not to risk public money on Garden Bridge

22/9/16 London’s garden bridge would benefit only the rich

22/9/16 Dame Margaret Hodge MP to conduct review into Garden Bridge project

7/9/16 Garden Bridge Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons led by Kate Hoey MP

17/8/16 £22m gap in Garden Bridge funds - Newsnight investigation


5/8/16 Thames garden bridge delays raise risk of major boat collision – expert

29/7/16 Garden bridge charity delays publishing annual accounts for five months


25/7/16 Garden Bridge: Tough questions for £175m Thames project

24/7/16 HS2 and the garden bridge are vanity projects – it's not too late to scrap both

21/7/16 Garden bridge may need taxpayer bailout once built, report says

11/7/16 Sadiq Halts Work On Garden Bridge

30/6/16 National Audit Office investigates London garden bridge grant


19/5/16 London's garden bridge: visitors urged to donate on Thames crossing

21/4/16 Boris Johnson accused of misleading politicians over garden bridge


17/4/16 Why did Sadiq Khan change his mind over the Garden Bridge? He's fallen for the sunk costs fallacy

14/4/16 Council consultation row over Garden Bridge


5/4/16 Lambeth’s Garden Bridge decision to face scrutiny


1/4/16 Joanna Lumley proposes Thames ‘Allotment Ferry’


1/4/16 Giant Boris Gnome planned for Garden Bridge


24/3/16 Architects and critics in last-minute plea to stop Garden Bridge


21/3/16 The Garden Bridge project reeks of cronyism and improper process. And here are the other 25 problems with it


18/3/16 London's Boris Johnson 'chided' over Garden Bridge design contract


9/3/16 Toilets and terrorism: Lambeth approves Garden Bridge plans 


7/3/16:  Garden Bridge: London council allegedly threatened over Thames project - by Peter Walker


7/3/16 Taking the piss out on the Garden Bridge - by George Turner


6/3/16 Thames garden bridge faces last-ditch challenge from local politicians - by Peter Walker

3/3/16 Lambeth could take Garden Bridge decision behiind closed doors - by James Hatts


1/3/16 Caroline Pidgeon pledges total opposition to the Garden Bridge - by Caroline Pidgeon


February 2016 ‘Thames Garden Bridge Procurement issues’ Walter Menteth, Project Compass CIC.

24/2/16 "On Bullshit" & the Garden Bridge - by Dan Anderson


14/2/16 Garden bridge: a project promoted and sold with half‑truths, deceptions and evasions - by Rowan Moore.


14/2/16 You've had your fun - let's put the Garden Bridge to bed now - by Rachel Holdsworth


13/2/16 Why is London's Garden Bridge worth as much as five Lancashire museums? Ask Joanna Lumley - by Ian Jack


12/2/16 London's Garden Bridge is exposing the messy business of architecture competitions - by Diana Budds


10/2/16 London Green party call halt to privatisation of public space in London - by Sian Berry


10/2/16 Is it still possible to stop the Garden Bridge? - by Will Wiles.


9/2/16 Garden Bridge procurement statement from RIBA - Jane Duncan


31/1/16 Muddy Waters - Jobs for the boys - by Walter Menteth

29/1/16 The Garden Bridge subverts the lessons of history - by Dan Anderson


20/1/16 Boris Johnson evades Tom Copley AM's questions about the Garden Bridge


20/1/16 Londoners' money put at risk by the Garden Bridge  - by Will  Hurst


17/1/16 George Osborne under attack overGarden Bridge cash pledge - by Mark Townsend


21/11/15 Why we must stop Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge - by Jack Wakefield


17 Sept 2015. GLA Oversight Committee Agenda Item 8, p71-72. Walter Menteth Report submission to the GLA Oversight Committee to inform their examination into the procurement of the design and technical services for the Thames Garden Bridge. Document review, analysis, report & response to GLA questions by Walter Menteth of Project Compass CIC as expert witness on behalf of industry. 34p.



bottom of page