Lambeth planning councillors gave the Garden Bridge “Trust” approval on Tuesday night for just four of the 46 conditions they have to meet. They are 3 months behind on even that meagre achievement - they were originally scheduled for a hearing at Lambeth in September, but this was deferred for three months because officers weren’t satisfied.
And even these can’t be implemented because they have yet to reach any agreement with ITV or IBM on using their land for trucks to access the construction site. Nor have ITV or IBM agreed to the noise and vibration which would be going on for three years (and will wreck their ability to record shows), and so Lambeth have deferred for a second time consideration of the condition around noise and vibration.
Besides the rest of the conditions they have to get approved, and the agreements with ITV and IBM, they have many more hurdles: they haven’t yet managed to get a lease of the land on the south bank to put the bridge on; they still haven’t got the funding to build the Bridge and refuse to release any detailed information on the pledges they claim to have, but they have pick-pocketed the public purse of £60m.
Most importantly they haven’t got the guarantee in place to underwrite the £3.5m operational costs, as required by the Court Order we extracted from them following Michael Ball’s judicial review in the spring. Last July Boris foolishly promised to underwrite this - which will cost the public purse another £150m over the lifecycle of the bridge (less the money the Garden Bridge Trust raise from selling T-shirts!), but he has yet to follow through on his promise.
But Lambeth are a completely pointless operation. They approved a ‘Logistics Plan’ which is a fantasy which will turn into a nightmare for residents and the 26 million visitors. They approved a construction size three times the size it needs to be, meaning that visitors on the South Bank will be hemmed into a riverwalk only 5.2m wide (the 7.6m measurement quoted in the press release includes a double line of trees: when these are taken out they admit it leaves only 5.2m). Even their own analysis states that this will lead to an “unacceptable” level of increasing pedestrian discomfort (level C+), but they haven’t taken into account a number of factors such as the Tate Modern Extension due to open in 2016 and expected to bring 1.75m additional visitors. When these are taken into account the conditions will fall to level D, akin to being on a tube platform in the rush hour. We believe it is likely to become dangerous along here.
They also promise to bring on some days 132 lorries to the site over 10 hours, which will mean that a new lorry will have to appear every 10 minutes like clockwork, since they have no parking space for lorries: but anybody who lives in the area knows that cars and lorries jostle bumper to bumper along Blackfriars Rd and Stamford Street and that the area from the Elephant north is frequently in gridlock. The result is we will have lorries waiting for hours churning out filth.
A few months ago, the Garden Bridge “Trust” worked over an entire weekend and through the night doing test drilling in the river, and have proved incapable of sticking to any legal agreements on working hours.
But Lambeth councillors supinely accepted this nonsense. We have never witnessed such ineffectual scrutiny. It didn’t help that the majority of councillors came from leafy Streatham - not a single councillor came from the north, the land of treeless gridlock, ever taller skyscrapers, noisy construction sites and filthy air. Perhaps they need to go and try and live in central London for a week. Or they could have just listened to their fellow Waterloo councillors, who made strong representations but were completely ignored.