Zac Goldsmith backs ambitious Barnes garden bridge project over abandoned river crossing

Ambitious plans to create a Barnes garden river crossing are well underway with the backing of former Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith.

Proposals to turn the Grade II listed Barnes Railway Bridge –  which hasn’t been used since 1895 after a wider crossing was constructed adjacent to it –  into a green space have been drawn up by the Barnes Community Association.

The plan has received support from Richmond and Hounslow councils and talks with bridge owners Network Rail are well under way.

Mr Goldsmith said: “It’s a beautifully presented scheme, and if it happens, it will not only provide what I’m sure will be a much loved walkway for people both sides of the river, it will bring a disused bridge back into use.

“This is very much a community initiative, and it has caught the public imagination.

“It won’t involve public money and, as things progress, there will be a grassroots fundraising campaign, which I will do everything I can to support.”

Barnes Community Association town centre manager Emma Robinson said: “Zac’s been involved from the beginning.

“He has been instrumental in helping to open doors within Network Rail for us.

“As a small community group we’re kind of pushing from the bottom up at Network Rail. For the first few months we were struggling to get any sort of response to us.

“Zac said that it was a great idea and he was very happy to get involved in our plan.

“He started going in at the top of Network Rail, which then opened doors at the bottom.

“Since then he’s been interested in just doing what he can to help us with the various conversations we’ve had to have.”

Mrs Robinson was first approached about the idea of transforming the disused bridge by resident Peter Banks.

“It was very much an idea that came from the community and I thought it was a brilliant idea. At the time there was a lot of discussion about the garden bridge further up the river but ours is already there and it’s part of our industrial heritage,” she said.

“I got loads of people coming forward saying that they would be interested on working on that project so we put together a little project team.

“We’ve been meeting now for a couple of years to work out how we can drive this project forward.”

While Barnes is closely situated to the Thames, accessibility to the river has been an issue residents are looking to solve.

“It’s a village on the river but it’s actually very difficult to see it because you’ve got this massive concrete flood defence,” explained Mrs Robinson.

“It’s also very difficult to get access to it. There are no jetties or pontoons or usable docks in the area.

“The garden bridge is another way of getting people closer to the river and being able to enjoy it in a way that they can’t easily do at the moment.”

While the project has garnered plenty of momentum there are still a few hurdles to overcome before a garden bridge is a reality.

“The issue at the moment is that we are in discussions with Network Rail,” continued Mrs Robinson.

“Until we can work out exactly how they can let us use the bridge we’re not going to make much progress.

“Once we have found a way forward then we can start looking at feasibility – looking at what kind of state that the bridge is in, how much weight it could support in terms of planting and stuff on the walkway, how to access both sides.”

As well as looking to create a ‘green promenade’ there is also a desire for the project leaders to create something unique.

London architects One-World Design approached the group and expressed an interest in getting involved.

Director Chris Medland drew up sketches and preliminary plans for the bridge, which include motion activated LEDs.

“There are lots of interesting things you can do with LEDs,” he said.

“We’ve been looking at it for the Diamond Jubilee Footbridge, which is a project that we initiated some five years ago.

“Visually you don’t necessarily get to see all the way through as you would on a well-lit footpath so, for confidence, it might be a good idea to include things that highlight if people are sat on a bench or are moving in a certain direction.

“You can do that with trace lighting. It lights up in front of your way so you can see where you’re going but also shows that you’ve been somewhere and you’re heading in different directions.

“So lighting can change colour or brightness depending on how you’re moving or if you’re stationary.”

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