Our deputation to Lambeth Council; this is what we said:
After handing in a petition with over 13,000 signatures - and still counting - on Wed 18th November 2015 7pm at Elmwood School, Tulse Hill, London:
“We’re here again bringing our deputation to you, because no one is coming to us. Since 2013 senior members and officers have met and received presentations from people promoting the Garden Bridge, but not once in nearly 3 years has anyone from Lambeth come and listened or explained why the executive of this council has surreptitiously supported this vanity project, or held themselves accountable for that decision. There has been an abdication of responsibility.
Last week some of us finally met with the Leader of the council. We got 35 minutes to just begin to try and deal with problems which this council will paying for, for many decades. There are two significant things Cllr Peck has said in recent weeks which we completely agree with: the bridge is in the wrong place and is not really a transport project at all; and that public money shouldn’t be going into this.
Firstly this issue of “it isn’t in the right place” – the job of the Leader of the Council is to say just that, to tell the group of powerful and influential supporters of the bridge that Lambeth isn’t willing to support this proposal at this site. Nobody else can do that. Cllr Peck has shown in recent weeks how she can negotiate with the Mayor of London over this bridge, so why doesn’t she just say the obvious: “it isn’t in the right place so we won’t support this”?
By failing to stand up to the Mayor and the bridge’s backers, Lambeth has effectively encouraged it to proceed. Lambeth has therefore itself contributed to this mess, and the spending of many millions of pounds of public money already. This has been another scandalous abdication of responsibility.
Cllr Peck said public money shouldn’t be spent on this, and in September she finally and courageously said no, and halted negotiations on the land disposal. That was just one card Lambeth held, but it was enough to stop the whole project. Except last week Cllr Peck changed her mind again and recommenced negotiations for the sale of the green, public open space on the riverside which is needed for the bridge to proceed. Cllr Peck boldly announced that she had saved the public purse £20m of the £60m, which would now not be a grant but a ‘loan’. This is complete deception in so many ways:
The ‘loan’ is to an organisation with no assets or income stream to use as collateral, for 50 years. At 2%, the GBT would have to pay back £400K per year. They already expect £3.5m annual running costs, which they hope to meet by selling t-shirts and holding galas. This is not credible and Boris has stepped in and landed the state – TfL – with this bill, which will cost over many millions in the next few decades.
So TfL is ‘loaning’ the Garden Bridge Trust £20m; and if the GBT can’t pay, then TfL will step in a pay…itself. That is not a loan: that is a gift. It is a loan, insists Cllr Peck, it’s like a mortgage. But if you default on a mortgage the bank gets your house; if the Trust defaults on their loan, the state gets the bridge and all its associated costs. How does it save Londoners anything if we pick up the tab on a defaulted loan?
Just last week the Trust unveiled their latest wheeze, threatening to start construction before they have the private money even pledged. If you believe their figures, they are still £30m short. One £10m donor, Glencore, is close to bankruptcy and unlikely to be able to pay. So what happens when they’ve half built the bridge and run out of money? This has happened to the Tate Modern extension, which has been delayed by 3 years. You can delay the opening of an art gallery by 3 years – but you can’t leave a bridge half built across the Thames (The Garden Pier?). It’s obvious what will happen – the state will have to step in, yet again, using Londoners millions and Lambeth land.
And that’s how you can stop this. It is your land – our land, public open space created out of public funds for local residents in perpetuity, to compensate for the lack of open space in the area, free from buildings and commercialisation, held in TRUST by Lambeth Council.
You can stop this. You 63 Lambeth councillors have the power to pull the plug on this colossal vanity project, and really saving Londoners millions of pounds – not £20m, but upwards of £160m of public funds. You will not only save Londoners millions of pounds, you will save some of the most treasured and freely available views of London. You will save London from yet another open space that is privately owned and across which no-one has any right of way. You can do this by not disposing of the land to the Garden Bridge, but retaining it as green, free, truly public open space. Your executive group and your Leader will make a decision on this. Please ensure it is the one you will all be happy to be remembered by. This is a legacy issue – one of the most visually intrusive and high profile statements that this Council will ever make.”