Calling Westminster residents: act now to stop the privatisation of open public space on the North B
On 21st December, Westminster Council published a notice to dispose of open public space around Temple tube station to the Garden Bridge Trust. This decision can be called in. We urge every Westminster constituent to contact their local councillors and make them aware of this con trick - here's why:
It would cost the public at least £500,000 after legal fees, indemnity costs and premiums paid to London Underground Limited, for the GBT to acquire this desperately needed crucial land from Westminster City Council (WCC) to build the bridge. The money to do this would be from the £60m public funding granted to the GBT by the Department of Transport and Transport for London.
So public money is being used to facilitate private developers the Garden Bridge Trust, to acquire public land which we would lose all rights to - where's the sense in that?
Questions also need to be asked about why Westminster council is allowing public money to be spent on a project that is not deliverable and is currently undergoing a review by Dame Margaret Hodge for London mayor Sadiq Khan and is also in question by the chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
The GBT are burning up to £500k a month and are going nowhere. They don't have implementable planning permissions: they don't have land rights; they are between £55m-£70m short of cash; they don't have a Port of London Authority licence or a public guarantee from Sadiq Khan (we shall challenge him in the High Court if he signs such a guarantee).
Therefore we urge every Westminster resident to contact their local councillor and ask them to call in the decision to dispose of public space at Temple tube station for this private development. If you know of any Westminster residents who might not see this, tell them and all their friends, families community groups, social circle and social media etc. to do the same - spread the word! You only have until 3rd January 2017 to do this so ACT NOW.!
To call in the decision, it needs three members from either the Environment and Customer Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=332 or three members from the Housing, Finance and Corporate Services Committee http://committees.westminster.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=326. This scenario presented by Westminster is not an accident...
Some points about this decision to make to your councillor (and to the councillors on the committees mentioned above):
The Garden Bridge project is undeliverable. It requires a public guarantee from the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who cannot issue such an underwriting on the grounds that it would be irrational to do so. The public funding was granted by the Treasury to the Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) on the basis that it would act as an incentive for private donors to come forward. However a public guarantee eliminates any need for private donations as all costs would eventually be met by the taxpayer, in the event of the GBT’s failure.
WCC is proposing to surrender this publicly owned asset without taking into account appropriate consideration of market value, (or its value as a public asset) on behalf of the people of Westminster. WCC would be losing out on valuable open public space that is worth much more than the peppercorn rent that the GBT would pay to construct and run their bridge. The figures quoted in the decision report (@£500k) is a pittance given the millions the land is worth.
According to the Cabinet Member Report (CMR) issued by WCC on 20th December 2016, 10.1.1, the GBT must be of “sufficient financial standing to enable it to comply with the tenant's covenants and conditions contained in the GBT Airspace Lease” However their business plan published in March 2016 has been severely and publicly criticised for being unrealistic and unable to deliver financially: https://view.publitas.com/p222-10185/review-of-garden-bridge-operations-and-maintenance-business-plan-2/page/1
Dame Margaret Hodge is currently investigating the Garden Bridge value for money case and the controversial procurement processes for Sadiq Khan. Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier MP is looking into the risks to taxpayer contribution and she is not impressed so far (she recently compared it to the Kid’s Company scandal) http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/public-accounts/Correspondence/2015-20-Parliament/161214-Chair-to-Perm-Sec-HM-Treasury-re-Garden-Bridge.pdf WCC must not be hasty and proceed with the decision on the basis that the bridge is likely to be delayed by these investigations and their outcome.
Given that many serious concerns and objections have been raised by establishments such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Middle Temple, The Westminster Society, the City of London, Metropolitan Public Gardens Association etc., claims that the “bridge will likely contribute to the social well-being of the area” and “contribute to the Council’s environmental well-being objectives” (CMR 3.1) are unfounded/unsubstantiated.
The air space/property/land in question around Temple tube station is owned by London Underground Limited (LUL), a TfL subsidiary. All rights to this publicly owned/controlled space would be lost if relinquished to the GBT. WCC are currently protected in some ways as TfL are answerable to the taxpayer, whereas the GBT are not.
Last year, a Westminster charity attempted to protect this piece of public land by registering it as an Asset of Community Value but WCC/TfL refused on the grounds that the vents on the roof are necessary for TfL/LUL railway operations (see this attached letter). And now suddenly it is available to support a tourist attraction? This is blatantly contradictory and an improper use of LUL property.
Developers must consult with local residents in regards to right to light but in the case of the residents of Arundel Great Court who would be affected by the Garden Bridge, their rights would be overlooked/overruled if WCC allow the Garden Bridge to built upon Temple station roof. This is a clear circumvention of the developers’ obligations to consult with the community, a devious loophole that WCC should not encourage.
This is such crucial piece of land and the decision must be carefully considered given the controversial nature of this project. We urge Westminster councillors from the two relevant committees to call the decision in so that more research can be done to come to the right decision for not only Westminster, but for London
(Please add you own comments about why you object to the bridge being constructed in Westminster - you can find some suggestions here http://www.tcos.org.uk/how-to-object)