Opponents accuse Westminster council of ‘hypocrisy’

Westminster council has given the green light to Heatherwick Studios’ garden bridge across the Thames in London.

The decision follows Lambeth’s consent last month, clearing the way for the structure since mayor Boris Johnson’s approval is all-but guaranteed.

The Garden Bridge Trust also announced that three contractors have been shortlisted for the next stage of procurement - but declined to name them until the bridge wins final planning approval from the Mayor of London. Construction could begin as early as the end of next year.

Earlier this week Building reported the bridge would have been thrown out by Westminster if it was a private development – but instead recommended it be approved because it is a “public facility”.

The planners’ report said: “It is considered that there can be little doubt that the garden bridge will cause significant harm to established views of importance, including designated LVMF [London View Management Framework] views.

“It is also clear that if this proposal was for a private commercial development of this height and size, the harm to these views would be considered unacceptable and the application refused. However, this proposal is for a public facility, or at least one that will be open to the public for the majority of the time. The proposal promises public benefits and the opportunity for the public to enjoy new river views.”

Critics of the scheme have branded it a “luvvies’ folly” and questioned why the taxpayer is stumping up for more than £60 million of its £175 million cost.

Anti-bridge campaign group Thames Central Open Space accused Westminster of hypocrisy given its crusade against schemes, such as Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House, that threaten historic views.

A spokeswoman said: “The opportunity to walk across London in a whimsical environment should not outweigh the significant harm the bridge would do to the Thames and its protected views – not to mention the thousands of other worthy projects that could do with public investment.”

The bridge will be shut for six hours a day while the trust has asked groups of eight or more let it know they will be planning to visit the bridge ahead of their arrival.

Paul Morrell, deputy chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said: “Today marks a major step forward for the garden bridge. Now that we have received planning consent on both sides of the river, we really look forward to the next step in the garden bridge‘s journey, which is building momentum by the day. The trust is committed to creating a magical new green space for London and will ensure that it creates an enjoyable visitor experience for all.”

Ernst & Young has agreed to support the project with its professional services.