London's Garden Bridge: not so public after all

By City Monitor Staff

Maybe we’re all being too hard on the Garden Bridge. Yes, it’s expensive (it’s expected to cost around £175m to build, of which around £60m will be public money), and we’re probably more in need of bridges that improve transport options, rather than ones littered with plantlife. But in a city divided in two by a great big river, any river crossing is surely better than none.

Except, according to a report in Building Design today, the bridge will be closed at night, won’t allow entry to cyclists or groups of 8 or more without prior booking, and will ocassionally be closed off for fundraising events. Right. So less a public bridge than a privately-managed tourist attraction, then. Here’s the reasoning for the group rule, according to planning documents submitted to planning committee:  

All groups of 8 or more visitors would be required to contact the Garden Bridge Trust to request a formal visit to the bridge. This policy would not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge.

Cyclists would have to wheel their bikes across, as provision for cycle lanes would, according to the Lambeth documents, “result in a much reduced planted area and erode the benefits of the bridge as a green space.”

Thankfully, the Garden Bridge trust has stated that there won’t be an admission charge to the bridge (except, one assumes, for those fundraising events). The city will, however, need to somehow gather £3.5m a year to operate and maintain the bridge and its trees. 

There are actually four other bridges within a mile of the proposed location, so closures and silly rules about its use, while reducing its benefits, probably wouldn’t inconvenience anyone that much. The east of London, on the other hand, could actually use another crossing, with or without limits to access:

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If the bridge gets its final approvals from Westminster and the Mayor’s office, construction should start in 2016 and be completed by 2018. If you have more than seven friends, you might want to get booking soon. 

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