Responding to concerns over the use of public funds, Joanna Lumley has said that there is “a real need” for the controversial Garden Bridge. Lumley, one of the trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust, argues in a letter to The Telegraph that the project, which would exclude cyclists, would help to “encourage people to make short trips in central London by foot”.
The Garden Bridge is to undergo a full judicial review next month after a judge ruled that Lambeth council may have ignored potential funding gaps and omitted other information in granting planning permission. The Guardian has reported that the public will be liable for the bridge’s annual £3.5m maintenance bill as well as contributing an initial £60m towards construction costs.
The legal challenge was brought by Michael Ball, who says that some of the best views over the Thames will be compromised by the proposed £175m project. However, Lumley makes a case in favour of the bridge as “a suitable tribute to a much-loved river”. Lumley apparently sees others’ resistance as being little more than the fear of something new, adding “even St Paul’s was criticised by citizens when it was rebuilt.”
She then makes her case that the bridge would be a key piece of pedestrian infrastructure.
“There is a strong transport and infrastructure case for the project. The population of London is growing at its fastest rate since the Thirties. By 2030, London will be a city of 10 million people; this population growth means many more trips will be made on the transport network. We need to encourage people to make short trips in central London by foot.
“To cross the Thames in the quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of London life, will be a pleasure. The garden will be a place of peace and beauty, open to all, changing with the seasons, enchanting everyone who uses it, while also relieving congestion on our road and public transport networks and contributing to a healthier and greener city.
“The bridge will display the best of British design, engineering and landscaping talent. There won’t be anywhere else like it in the world.”
Rosie Downes, campaigns manager at London Cycling Campaign, takes a rather different view.
"Joanna Lumley rightly highlights the increasing pressures on London's transport network as a result of our city's growing population, but expensive plans with no provision for cycling are clearly not the answer. London's congestion (and pollution) issues could be tackled in a more effective and economical way by transforming the city's existing river crossings into spaces which are safer and more inviting for cycling – for example by reducing motor traffic volumes on nearby Waterloo Bridge."
Another new bridge across the Thames has also been proposed a little way downstream linking Nine Elms and Pimlico. A study by Transport for London found that there was a strong transport case for providing a new crossing in this area and so the bridge will be designed with cyclists in mind.