Lambeth Council have agreed to the most visited tourist attraction in the UK having fewer toilets than the Clapham Picturehouse.
The Garden Bridge is expected to draw 7 million visitors a year if constructed, with long queues to get on the £175m structure at busy times. On Tuesday night (8/3/16) Lambeth’s Planning Committee approved a toilet block with just 8 toilets – giving those who are likely to need pay a visit less than 10 seconds on average in a cubicle.
The decision flew in the face of advice from the British Toilet Association that a minimum of around 30 toilets were needed to accommodate 5,000 visitors an hour at busy times. But councillors rejected the advice and the British Standards, as well as objections from Kate Hoey MP, local councillors and hundreds of local residents.
The Garden Bridge Trust stated that 8 cubicles could deal with up to 9,500 visitors, although the British Toilet Association stated in a letter:
“It is our official opinion that this structure and the considerable number of potential visitors will require a substantial toilet provision. We have considered your estimates amounting to around 7million visitors per year and concluded that our estimate is 12 - 15 toilets on the bridge with an additional block at either entrance. No provision has been attempted on or within the structure: this could lead to misappropriate behaviour that could ultimately become very embarrassing.
“The dwell time on the bridge may be gravely underestimated and many visitors may spend lunchtime or periods greater than an hour on the structure. This can only increase the frequency of use. We would totally concur with your fear and concerns regarding street urination and any additional fall in the levels of public decency and privacy.”
In taking their decision Planning Committee Vice-Chair Cllr Diana Morris stated that if more toilets were put in it would turn the building under the Garden Bridge into a toilet. Local resident Wai-King Cheung said:
“residents in Waterloo already suffered badly from public urination, in the streets, in our gardens, even at our front doors. This decision condemns the whole of Waterloo into a public toilet. The Garden Bridge will get the same number of visitors as the Eiffel Tower, but with the toilet provision of the Clapham Picturehouse .”
The Planning Committee also approved a piling and noise Construction Strategy, despite objections from ITV, the nearest building to the proposed Garden Bridge. Double glazing and other mitigation measures had been proposed, as well as noise monitoring devices attached to the building. No mitigation was proposed for the hundreds of residents living only 100m from the site, although councillors insisted that the noise monitoring reports be made public. Nicholas Timms a co-operative housing resident who lives in the Oxo Tower stated:
“Under this agreement we get no protection from heavy drilling work, with construction sometimes scheduled for over 24 hours at a time – but we will be able to read a print out from the monitors telling us about the noise we will have already suffered. Why do Lambeth Council enjoy inflicting this double torture on residents. No residents in the Oxo Tower have been consulted even once about a whole string of applications for the Garden Bridge”.
The Planning Committee also approved a Counter Terrorism Strategy which they weren’t allowed to see, with most of the document blanked out (redacted) for security reasons.
Kate Hoey asked that the items be deferred because of the poor consultation, and to take advice on the toilets and objections from ITV and the Port of London Authority, and to allow the Chief Executive of the Council to investigate allegations of malpractice made by some councillors about the way in which the Garden Bridge was approved by Lambeth.
Michael Ball, chair of Thames Central Open Spaces, a group formed in 2014 to stop the Garden Bridge, stated:
“We are considering bringing a legal action against Lambeth Council for this decision and the way in which the Council has generally behaved inappropriately over the Garden Bridge, with numerous secret meeting and private lobbying, reports stuffed full of misinformation, and heavy leaning on key people. This is not the way to take a decision which will wreck the lives of hundreds of residents on the South Bank and will condemn the area to become a dangerous, over-crowded and urine soaked mosh pit”.
Lambeth imposed a total of 46 conditions when granting planning permission for the Garden Bridge, which are scheduled for further hearings of the Planning Committee throughout the spring. The Garden Bridge Trust hope to begin construction in the summer.