Lambeth Green councillor lodges formal objection to Garden Bridge ‘vanity project’

A Lambeth Green councillor has lodged a formal objection to the council opposing the lease  of land on  to The Garden Bridge Trust which would pave the way for the  £175m Garden Bridge across the Thames.

Councillor Scott Ainslie submitted his complaint earlier this week  stipulating it was unjust that 600 square metres of open land, which was previously open to the public could be leased.

The lease of the land from Coin Street Community Builders would allow 400 square metres to be used for commercial activity with 200 square metres being used as support for the bridge structure and offices for the Garden Bridge Trust.

Councillor Ainslie said: “In times when austerity is hitting millions of poor Londoners, public money is being offered to underwrite the running costs of what amounts to a vanity project.

“The proposed sale of a larger piece of land than is actually needed for the proposed bridge to ‘land’ – and the significant changes to the terms of leasehold on this land – would in effect be a hidden subsidy for the bridge by making possible retail development where currently there is open green space, most precious to local residents and visitors.”

In April 2015 the land was granted status as an Asset of Community Value, which means that residents have six months to come up with alternative proposals for the land.

According to Councillor Ainslie more than 1,000 objections to the land lease were submitted to Lambeth Council’s Head of Asset Strategy Valuation and Asset Management Services before the deadline at 5pm on Tuesday.

The Garden Bridge Trust, a charity overseeing the construction of the 366-metre long bridge, is adamant that they are using the smallest amount of land possible to provide maintenance facilities and access to the bridge.

A spokesman said: “This will bring into use a bridge with ten times as much new public space, open to all, free of charge, from 6am to midnight every day.

“We are confident that Londoners, and people living in Lambeth, will love the new bridge and its gardens containing approaching 100,000 plants, shrubs, bulbs and trees.”

Concerns have been raised with regards to the cost of the bridge, which was initially touted at £60m, and is now estimated to  be nearer £175m.

Councillor Ainslie expressed his concern that the promised £250,000 per year is not nearly enough to mitigate the anticipated impact of seven million tourists.

He said: “The London Eye generates £350,000 in mitigation, and it’s been needed to clear up the litter and mend the place continuously, for two million visitors, so £250,000 is nowhere near enough.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that if private funds were not enough to cover the estimated £3million maintenance costs of the bridge, public money would be used.

However The Garden Bridge Trust are confident that their fully scrutinised business plan will be able to cover running costs through private funding.

The Garden Bridge is set to begin construction early in 2016, and is planned to be completed in 2018.

Picture courtesy of Arup, with thanks

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