Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge
given green light

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News: Thomas Heatherwick's £175 million Garden Bridge proposal for London has been approved by Westminster Council amid claims it will be the "most expensive footbridge in the world".

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Update 19-12-14: the Garden Bridge has been approved by London's Mayor's Office. "I am happy for Westminster City Council and Lambeth Council to determine the applications for the Garden Bridge themselves," said deputy mayor for planning Edward Lister.

The 367-metre pedestrian bridge, which consists of two fluted piers supporting a promenade planted with trees, is set to span the River Thames between the South Bank and Temple Station.

Earlier today, BBC journalist Tom Edwards reported that the bridge would be the most expensive crossing of its kind, partially due to the materials being used in its cladding.

"Civil engineers have told us at £175 million the Garden Bridge will be the most expensive footbridge in the world in part due to copper cladding," said Edwards on Twitter.

Garden Bridge by Thomas Heatherwick
Proposed access structure for the Garden Bridge from the north bank of the river in an area government by Westminster Council

Westminster Council, on the north bank of the Thames, was one of two London boroughs that needed to green light the plans for the bridge. Its local government councillors approved the scheme by three votes to one in a planning meeting this evening.

Lambeth Council – the planning authority responsible for the development on the south side of the river – gave its approval in November. The project still needs a formal approval from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has already declared his backing for the scheme.



Further examination of the planning documents last month revealed that groups of eight people or more would have to apply for permission to cross the bridge, a rule introduced partially in an attempt to discourage "protest groups" from occupying the structure.

British architecture news site BDonline also said that the bridge would cost £3.5 million a year to operate and maintain.

It will be funded, managed and maintained by the Garden Bridge Trust, a charitable organisation created for the sole purpose of realising the project. The trust is adamant that the public will not be charged to access the bridge.

Heatherwick Studio is working alongside engineers Arup and landscape designer Dan Pearson on the project.

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Westminster's planning officers had recommended that the local authority's planning panel, consisting of four councillors, approve the scheme "subject to appropriate measures to secure the long term funding and maintenance of the bridge".

"The substantial benefits of the new bridge, the iconic architecture, new connectivity and additional views created from the bridge, outweigh the harm to views from Waterloo bridge and the South Bank," said the planners.

Over 120 people attended the hearing tonight at Westminster City Hall, with interested members of the public being forced to stand at the back of the room to hear the results.

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The committee was shown an extensive array of slides demonstrating the effect of the bridge on historic views of the Thames and landmark buildings including St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren.

The planning officer responsible for the scheme said that had it offered no public access it would have been rejected, but added that these "lost views" would be compensated by new vistas from the bridge.

Reporting from the planning meeting, local news site SE1 said that councillor Davis had declared that he had "always been a fan" of Heatherwick and said that he believed the bridge would be a "superb addition" to London. Councillor Tim Mitchell said the design of the bridge was "excellent".

The Garden Bridge Trust will now need to raise the remaining funds to build the structure, and secure Transport for London as a guarantor on maintenance fees as part of the conditions of Westminster's approval. Construction is due to start on the project in 2015.

  • Tom

    Huge Heatherwick fan but when there’s 80,000 empty homes in London I feel as though £175m could be spent elsewhere.

  • J

    A little optimistic of Westminster to suggest protestors will want to quietly snuggle-up out of controversy’s way on this kettle-dream of a bridge, when Parliament Square remains, (against our current government’s ideas) the capital’s designated ground for democratic dialogue.

  • Fearghal Moran

    A copper elephant.

  • Tom

    £175m is a vast and life-changing amount of money that should not be spent on Heatherwick or a f**cking garden bridge.

  • PDidle

    Waste of money. Could have designed something as beautiful and elegant and functional with a much smaller budget! Yet another egotistic Heatherwick project!

  • robert_t

    Wasteful, elitist and thoroughly misguided bullsh*t.

  • Mr J

    Should make a handsome addition to the riverscape.

  • James

    The naysayers are boring me now. This will be amazing. £175 million could be spent on any number of things. Your argument that it would be better spent on housing is weaker than a well-soaked biscuit.

    Guess what? Private investors aren’t exactly interested in solving the problems of the poor. They want beauty, flowers and a new bridge. That’s exactly what they’ll get because the people who oppose it are too limp-wristed to do anything other than comment on a website.

    Get a life and get on board with the bridge, or protest and fight it. Whatever happens, stop boring me with your mindless and endless moaning.

    • Jon Millwood

      The bridge could be 100% privately funded if it was if they want the beauty of it. But TfL and the treasury are putting in a combined £60 million.

      (I have also written to Boris Johnson).

  • PDidle

    Stop your moaning James, it’s boring me now.

  • Jon Millwood

    Except the Southbank is already full of tourists (and locals). There are many other locations and other UK cities where £30m would really help tourism

  • Richard J Francis

    Whilst I love anything eco / eco-tech and green, I am surprised there is such a large budget being allocated to this.

    London has a clean-air problem and a £300m fine just landed for non-compliance with the Kyoto. Purely from a scientific perspective, I’d be interested to know if this bridge is a better ‘clean air’ investment than spreading other less ‘bling’ eco-infrastructure around the whole city as oppose to splurging it all in one place.

    I suspect I know the answer, but it would be nice to get science rather than opinion based on personal preference, prejudice or political leaning.

  • Steef

    What use is presumed beauty if you can not appreciate it, or at least experience it? That bikes are not allowed is baffling.

  • Matthew Hardy

    Check the section to see how massively bulky this proposal really is. Don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes by CGI. It’s an aircraft carrier parked at right angles in the river.