Latest News

THE COLLAPSE OF THE GARDEN BRIDGE PART 2 – THOMAS HEATHERWICK

2 May 2017

With Joanna Lumley already having gone to the press with her sob story, it was only a matter of time before Heatherwick was rolled into action to deliver a few soundbites in a desperate attempt to salvage the Garden Bridge development.

Next up: Thomas Heatherwick

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THE COLLAPSE OF THE GARDEN BRIDGE PART 1 – JOANNA LUMLEY

2 May 2017

We knew that the Garden Bridge Trust wouldn’t be happy with the inevitable decision by Sadiq Khan to follow Margaret Hodge’s advice and withdraw support for their development. But what has their response been? In three posts we look at how the three of the protagonists responded to the news.

First up: Joanna Lumley

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SADIQ KHAN REFUSES TO SIGN THE MAINTENANCE GUARANTEE – THE END OF THE GARDEN BRIDGE?

28 Apr 2017

Sadiq Khan has written to Lord Davies of the Garden Bridge Trust to explain he will not be signing the maintenance guarantee which offers public finance to underwrite the annual £3m+ maintenance costs of the private development.

This, in effect, means the Garden Bridge will be cancelled as the Mayoral signature is required as a part of the planning conditions from both Lambeth and Westminster.

 

Read Sadiq’s letter here:

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THE GARDEN BRIDGE – A GIFT TO LORD DAVIES FROM US

21 Apr 2017

Lord Davies loves saying that the Garden Bridge is a gift to the nation from generous philanthropists. But ahead of his desired “crunch meeting” with Sadiq Khan it may be worth checking out what kind of gift this is, who it’s from and who is the beneficiary.

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A SECOND RESPONSE TO DESPERATE DAVIES

16 Apr 2017

In response to Dame Margaret Hodge’s damning report into his development, Lord Mervyn Davies this week wrote an advertorial for The Times newspaper. In a piece in which he accused Dame Margaret of providing no facts for her investigation (she did) he failed to proffer any facts in response.

Last September when Lord Merv wrote a similar lump of mess in The Times I provided an annotated response, so felt it best to do the same to this latest desperate outburst:

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FALL OUT FROM THE HODGE INQUIRY

12 Apr 2017

Now a few days have passed since Dame Margaret Hodge published her report into the Garden Bridge, a document in which every sentence is loaded with vitriol, anger and disbelief at the procurement, management and machinations of all involved with the project, let’s step back and have a look at responses to it.

Obviously there has been huge media coverage, and plenty of “it has to be stopped, now” from Assembly Members and those who have been following the debacle closely. However, the extremely brief responses from those closely involved with the development are worth paying attention to first.

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THE HODGE REPORT EVISCERATES THE GARDEN BRIDGE

8 Apr 2017

After nearly six months in the making, Dame Margaret Hodge has published the report of her investigations into the Garden Bridge. Sadiq Khan had asked her to conduct the inquiry to investigate the value for money, costs, conduct and procedures of the project.

You can read the full report HERE. And you should, because what Hodge delivers is 37 pages of absolute evisceration of the Garden Bridge, though fair, cutting and critical.

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THE LONDON ASSEMBLY CALL ON SADIQ TO END THE GARDEN BRIDGE

8 Feb 2017

The London Assembly today debated a motion calling for Saidiq Khan to refuse to sign the TfL funded guarantee which would see the public purse liable for up to £3.5m each year for Garden Bridge upkeep.

However, there wasn’t much ‘debate’ as every Assembly Member, of each party, was in agreement that the whole development was deeply flawed, problematic and not what London needs. Instead of a debate they queued up one after another to criticise the project, the Garden Bridge Trust and plea for Sadiq to do the right thing by democracy, Londoners and TfL.

 

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THE GARDEN BRIDGE SECRETS OF JOHNSON, TFL & KHAN

20 Jan 2017

A lot of attention has been put onto the Garden Bridge Trust and their lack of public consultation, communication and the general way they have hidden behind spin, PR, trickery and legalities. But there are other, arguably more concerning, ways in which the truth is being concealed from the public from our elected bodies.

This is a quick look at the ways Boris Johnson, Sadiq Khan and TfL have attempted to close transparency, discussion and understanding of the Garden Bridge.

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THE ACCOUNTS STATE THE FINAL COST MAY “SUBSTANTIALLY EXCEED” £185m

11 Jan 2017

The wait is over! The accounts for year-ending 31 March 2016 have finally been published. We had been expecting them last July but at the very last moment the GBT delayed publication “for administrative purposes”.

It was thought at the time that the delay was simply to bide more time and to conceal the precarious nature of the project from us public (who are paying for it), the donors and politicians. However, even with a six month “administrative” delay it is not good reading for the stakeholders of the project and the donors who haven’t abandoned ship.

There are a few nuggets in there, a highlight being that the Trusteees admit that the final cost “may substantially exceed £185m”. The whole project must be stopped before more damage is wreaked.

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7 Jan 2017

The Garden Bridge Trust are headed up by twelve Trustees, each carefully picked not from the local residential community but from a well networked strata of the corporate, financial and political good. And Joanna Lumley.

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7 Jan 2017

Being a private development the Garden Bridge Trust can set a long list of rules for those they accept onto their property. Despite their project demanding vast sums of public money, it causing huge damage to public heritage views and it destroying a public park you will only be allowed on the bridge if you agree to and abide by their rules.

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7 Jan 2017

The Garden Bridge is privately owned and offers no legal right of way. Like any privately owned public space there will be different levels of private policing, from ‘visitor hosts’ in a friendly uniform who smile as they great you and advice on your expected queuing wait to get on, through to private security and then to the invisible forces – the wifi monitoring system and CCTV linked to anonymous people in a room somewhere.

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7 Jan 2017

Normally, when something infrastructural like a bridge is designed, it is a deeply considered architectural object which sits gently within the urban context it is designed for. However, as the Garden Bridge was designed for a separate location entirely and simply plonked, like any other Heatherwick model upgraded from 1:200 scale to 1:1, in the middle of a world heritage site it doesn’t have a great relationship with the river banks it sits upon.

This is no more obvious than when you consider the sheer number of steps needed to get on and off this most inelegant of impositions. Over 120 steps are needed if you are intending to use the Garden Bridge to get from the South Bank to Temple station, making a mockery of any backwards-engineered proposition the development is for transport or pedestrian connectivity.

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7 Jan 2017

The 31st December is to most people a day of celebration and looking forwards, but to the Garden Bridge Trust a day of stress and trepidation. For it was the day when they hadto file their most recent accounts.

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7 Jan 2017

When first mooted, after the sham procurements, it was misleadingly suggested that the Garden Bridge would cost £60m, with not a penny from public finances. Roll on three and a half years and the regular increasing costs of the development see the total currently standing at £185m of which £60m is from the public transport purse. This cost is only likely to rise and as the NAO stated it is likely that the public would be called on to bail out the Garden Bridge Trust for both any (growing) funding gap as well as potentially over £3m a year for maintenance costs.

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7 Jan 2017

The Garden Bridge has been or is under scrutiny from five probes:

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7 Jan 2017

The Garden Bridge will destroy four of the world’s finest urban vistas: looking east from Waterloo Bridge, looking northeast from the South Bank towards St. Pauls, looking northwest from the South Bank towards Somerset House and looking west from Blackfriars Bridge towards Waterloo Bridge.

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7 Jan 2017

On their website, the Garden Bridge Trust claim:

The operations jobs will largely be private security and office management (for a bridge!). As for the construction jobs, there may be a few Workfare positions but the bridge would actually be pre-fabricated in Italy by Cimolai and constructed on site by a French Contractor, Bouyges. It isn’t clear where these hundreds of construction jobs will come from or how they will benefit any of the taxpayers funding the private development.

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7 Jan 2017

The Garden Bridge never had a design competition, nobody even asked for a design. TfL set up a small procurement for a feasibility study for options and ideas of a hypothetical Thames crossing, created small so as to avoid European regulations. Heatherwick ‘won’ this even though experts state he should have been disqualified for not answering the brief which was to “examine the potential for a footbridge… considering a number of different locations and taking into account a range of constraints in the area…. and test broad options”.

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THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

25 Dec 2016

 

 

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THE GARDEN BRIDGE IN THE MAGNA CARTA

14 Dec 2016

The Magna Carta is the root of our long held democratic freedoms, the document which grants us citizenship rights over the royal rulers.

2015 saw its 800th anniversary, though it is such a powerful and prescient document that it specifically mentions the Garden Bridge:

 

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THE GARDEN BRIDGE IS ECOLOGICAL VANDALISM

8 Dec 2016

The suggestion that the Garden Bridge is a good thing environmentally doesn’t get challenged enough. To anyone who has read up on the project it is apparent and obvious, but many who only give a cursory look or make a quick judgement presume it to be a beacon of ecological hope. However, it is exactly this kind of greenwash development which does more environmental damage than good, and it also diverting funds away from genuine greening projects London so urgently needs as well as maintenance for existing parks.

Jim Gardiner recently stepped down from his role as Vice President of the RHS and in doing so severed the RHS’s uneasy relationship to the Garden Bridge as he also stepped away from the contentious development. He had been a Trustee of the Garden Bridge Trust but his retirement now means that team behind the development don’t have a single horticultural, environmental or green backer.

However, they have quite a few green opposers, and this post looks at some of that environmental opposition.

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A Standard Plea Of Desperation

16 Nov 2016

It’s not all about the money, the Garden Bridge has countless serious issues with it from environmental damage, privatisation of the city, destruction of a public park, damage to the local community, purposelessness and so on. But it’s understandable that money is a huge talking point during times of ‘austerity’ and when everyone at home is counting their pounds.

Increasingly it’s a huge issue for the Garden Bridge Trust too – because they have so little but need so much. But worry not, the Evening Standard are doing their feeble best to get some for them.

 

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Donald Trump & the Garden Bridge are symbols of the neoliberal end-days

9 Nov 2016

Trump’s victory is the culmination of three decades of neoliberalism. When markets are given such a high status that a property developer can become leader of the free-world. When competition becomes the sole mechanism for change a gameshow host can become president.

The world and politics which created this, which grew from the reigns of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and the ideas of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, is that which has created much of western urbanity, of which London is the prime example. A city where capital has taken control of every element of the city; the public and private, the personal and political, the structural and aesthetic. Donald Trump and the Garden Bridge are powerful symbols of these neoliberal end-days.

 

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A simple question still unanswered

7 Nov 2016

Back in March 2016 the Garden Bridge Trust put out a press release celebrating with delight the signing of a construction contract with Bouygues TP and Cimolai SpA. There were raised eyebrows at the time as to why they had decided to do this while facing seemingly insurmountable hurdles and huge public and political opposition. But, sign it they did, and because they then defaulted on publishing their accounts we still don’t quite know the financial repercussions of it.

But as the months have passed by other bits of information do come out, even if their opaque finances remain concealed. In this post – sent in by an anonymous Garden Bridge opponant – we compare what was said in that press release with what we now know as fact.

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#LondonIsOpen…

21 Oct 2016

Sadiq Khan has proudly been proclaiming that “London Is Open” recently – one of the most repeated slogans of our mayor who isn’t shy of a soundbite. He has had a curious relationship with the Garden Bridge, constantly repositioning himself to get political traction from who he needs when he needs it. But now the time has come for him to remember he is Mayor and take some leadership on the matter rather than constantly pass the buck.

And while he refuses to answer or address serious questions on the Garden Bridge, exactly what is he saying “London Is Open” to?

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Joanna Lumley’s Audio Diary

16 Oct 2016

I was going for a walk around Stockwell last month when I noticed a cassette tape lying on the ground. I’d not seen one in ages, so picked it up, put it in my bag and thought nothing more of it. Then, a week or so later I came across it, looked more closely and read the hand scrawled title – “joanna’s audio diary october 2015”.

Intrigued, I dug out my tape player from the loft and gave it a listen. I knew these dulcet tones! It was recordings of Joanna Lumley! Some kind of audio diary she must have taped daily. There was only one entry about the Garden Bridge, so I sat down to transcribe it.

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A Summary Of The NAO Report Coverage

12 Oct 2016

One day after the National Audit Office report and everybody is talking about the Garden Bridge. The facts of the report were pulled apart across the mainstream media, broadsheets to tabloids, with below-the-line commentators fuming and social media seeping with anger.

Most of the headlines focused on the finances that will be lost when the bridge is cancelled, but this is not the story – these figures were already known and are far smaller than the sums that the public purse would be liable for should the project ever see the light of day. But deeper into the articles journalists realised where the real stories lay – and there are many of them in a loaded and critical report.

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The National Audit Office’s Garden Bridge Investigation

11 Oct 2016

Today the National Audit Office (NAO) publish findings from their investigations into the Garden Bridge. Because of the remit of the NAO they were only looking into the £30m from the Department for Transport (DfT).

However, this is an important line of inquiry. A lot of attention has rightly been given to the procurement, the TfL monies and other problems with the bridge. But the £30m from the national taxpayer has had many question marks hanging over it.

Their report will be widely circulated and reported in the news. But here are their key findings reproduced without comment from their press release

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Communities Protesting Lambeth Council

9 Oct 2016

Yesterday a few hundred people gathered in central Brixton to protest Lambeth Council for many ongoing local concerns, including the Garden Bridge. It was organised by a wide group of local activist groups who have concerns with how the dominant Labour council, and the few people who have prime control of it, have treated local communities over such issues as library closures, selling off of social housing, social cleansing of Brixton and more.

 

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Margaret Hodge’s Inquiry – one week on

3 Oct 2016

Just over a week ago Sadiq Khan announced that he had appointed Margaret Hodge MP to oversee an full inquiry into the Garden Bridge, its finances, history and oversight. It was widely picked up across the media (even, briefly, the Evening Standard) and will not only raise awareness about the numerous issues and concerns with the project, but also shed more light into some of the many dark corners.

Here we look at what will be covered by the report, how it was reported and what it means for the nailing of the Garden Bridge coffin.

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Joanna Lumley Digging Her Own Hole On The BBC

24 Sep 2016

It’s been a busy few days for the Garden Bridge since Lord Mervyn Davies, chair of the Garden Bridge Trust, was given the luxury of 500 words in the Times newspaper to advertise his development last week. The final trick in their book, when truly desperate, is to wheel out Joanna Lumley with her dulcet tones to sell the Garden Bridge. They also did this, though her appearance on BBC London Radio didn’t quite go as she had planned.

The Trust only get these two on the PR offensive when they face serious problems, and these outings foreshadowed their biggest yet as a new inquiry led by Margaret Hodge MP into the whole of the Garden Bridge from proposal to now, covering the procurement, Boris Johnson, TfL and funding has been announced – more on that in the next blog post.

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A Response To Mervyn Davies

21 Sep 2016

This week Lord Mervyn Davies wrote an advertorial for The Times newspaper. It was a total puff piece and every sentence seemed to offer a misleading statement or half-truth.

There was just too much in it to write a normal article, so instead I have annotated his article itself…

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Big Questions For Sadiq

14 Sep 2016

Today is one of the 10 yearly Mayor’s Question Times when Assembly Members get to put questions to the mayor in order to maintain their role of scrutiny and oversight of his actions. With the amount that has happened in the last few weeks with the Garden Bridge it’s an important one for Sadiq, but he has history of ducking any real answers in favour of somewhat meaningless slogans and shifting responsibility onto other parties. Today he has the chance to act like a mayor.

Throughout his campaign and since becoming mayor Sadiq has singularly refused to meet any of the opponents of the Garden Bridge or the local community who will be so affected by the development. Under his watch the Garden Bridge has escelated in cost, had funders withdraw, have serious questions asked across the media – and yet he still refuses any responsibility, hasn’t shown any leadership and shamefully has not initiated the mayoral investigation he claimed had begun.

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LBC update on the “£185m bridge to nowhere”

13 Sep 2016

Theo Usherwood, the political editor of LBC, has just published an article on the morning Nick Ferrari show updating on the Charity Commission investigation into the Garden Bridge and revealing some damning insights from City Hall, the Government and even from the Garden Bridge Trust themselves.

While publicly the Garden Bridge Trust say everything is going swimmingly and on track, only one donor is willing to give money up front and it’s revealed that even the Trustees now have grave concerns for the viability of the development.

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Newsnight & The Evening Standard: A Comparison

9 Sep 2016

The speech about the Garden Bridge in Parliament by MP Kate Hoey has been causing a stir. The thorough pulling apart of some of the many issues of the development that Hoey subjected the dying project to has helped pull a lot of the non-financial concerns into wider discussion as well as raising new questions about the huge financial concerns of the development.

This post offers two responses to Hoey’s End Of Day Adjournment Debate; one from Hannah Barnes, Newsnight journalist who has been covering the ill-fated project of late, and another from Kate Proctor in the Evening Standard managing to stretch the title “journalist” to its limits. Comparing the two makes for an interesting exercise in the work of journalists and the importance of a media that can be trusted.

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The Garden Bridge In The House Of Commons

7 Sep 2016

Kate Hoey MP has just finished her End Of Day Adjournment Debate considering the risk to London of the Garden Bridge in the House of Commons. She didn’t hold back. She strongly criticised TfL, the current Mayor Sadiq Khan, Joanna Lumley, Coin Street Community Builders, the Evening Standard and the Department for Transport.

She also spent a long time congratulating those involved in shedding light on the project, including opponents such as Thames Central Open Spaces, the GLA, journalists such as Will Hurst of Architects’ Journal and authors of independent reports Dan Anderson and Walter Menteth.

The harshest words and stinging critique, however, was saved for the Garden Bridge Trust who have “treated local views with disdain”. During her powerful speech she called for all current donors to the development to consider withdrawing their support and funds.

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Garden Bridge In Parliament – Email Your MP

6 Sep 2016

On 7th September MP for Vauxhall, Kate Hoey, will be raising the many issues of the Garden Bridge in Parliament. She has tabled an End Of Day Adjournment Debate titled “Garden Bridge and its implications for London” which will help raise political awareness about the cultural vandalism the Garden Bridge Trust and Thomas Heatherwick intend to wreak on the capital.

PLEASE WRITE TO YOUR MP, wherever you live, to ask them to support this important political act.

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A Simple Garden Bridge Cost Comparison

4 Sep 2016

A simple bar chart has been created by Neil Richards, who creates data visualisations for social research, based on calculations by the ‘Ranty Highwayman‘, who wrote a recent article about the Garden Bridge here.

Taking the East-West Cycle Superhighway as a base, it calculates how much per mile various infrastructure projects cost to construct, including roads, trams the Millennium Bridge and the HS2 railway.  To make it easier to read, I have coloured the Garden Bridge bar in red, though you may need to scroll a little…

 

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Heatherwick’s Failure #3 – The B of the Bang

2 Sep 2016

There are two striking similarities between the London Olympics of 2012 and Manchester’s Commonwealth Games which preceded it by a decade. One is that in both instances hugely expensive stadiums were built at vast public expense but with no real idea for a ‘legacy’, with both then gifted to insanely rich, private Premier League football clubs.

The second is that outside of each stadium stood a publicly funded sculpture. In London the ArcelorMittal Orbit stands like a collapsed rollercoaster serving as cheap advertising for a steel magnate, and it has now been turned into the world’s most expensive helter skelter in a desperate attempt to stem haemorrhaging losses. While Manchester had the B of the Bang, designed by our Garden Bridge ‘boy genius’ Heatherwick, was late, overbudget and ended up being sold off for scrap after falling apart.

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The Garden Bridge Is A Solution To A Problem We Don’t Have

31 Aug 2016

While a lot of the conversation relating to the Garden Bridge concentrates on public finance, huge risk of massive over-spend and nervousness of politicians to say NO to Joanna Lumley and press the stop button it is important to remember that it is a bridge we are talking about. That is, something which should serve a demonstrable transport purpose and be led by function, rather than vanity, cronyism and greed.

This post is written by “Ranty Highwayman“, a professional highway engineer with interest in improving the public realm for walkers and cyclists. His blog may at first seem geeky and niche, but it’s well worth a look to see how real, sometimes small, changes can have a direct effect upon community, safety and individuals.

Here he considers the Garden Bridge for transport purpose, shared use, transformative potential and aesthetic. It doesn’t come out well….

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Jumping The Hurdles & Shaking The Money Tree

25 Aug 2016

The Olympics may be over, but there’s one event everyone is watching which is still stuttering on to a car-crash of a conclusion. There’s only one entrant in it, but the Garden Bridge Hurdles is attracting a larger audience by the day despite the sorry state of the sole competitor – the exhausted and gasping Garden Bridge Trust – becoming more of a figure of ridicule than the usual loved plucky underdogs who struggle to compete.

The Garden Bridge Hurdles is a drawn out affair in which the charity must try to reach the finishing line despite more and more obstacles being put in the way. It’s tragic but compelling, and while today the miserable entrant may have managed to step over (or sidestep) one hurdle, many more lay ahead with more at the sides ready to be placed in their path.

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Regenerating The Struggling Northbank

21 Aug 2016

On 21st July Lord Mervyn Davies, the Chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, wrote to Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, seeking support from the government in the face of his development unraveling.

It included this sentence:

“It will also be a catalyst for new business activity, particularly in areas in need of regeneration such as the Northbank…”

Now watch this video made by the Northbank Business Improvement District (BID) highlighting the massive gentrification needs of this most down-at-heel part of London.

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Somebody Needs To Press The STOP Button

20 Aug 2016

Someone needs to take control and press the Garden Bridge STOP button. As we have seen this week the project is losing donors and not only has a real risk of a huge shortfall in required funding, with the public likely to have to make up any difference, the final build cost is likely to go sky high due to a late start, legal actions, problematic design and a complicated site with the added issue of the Thames Tideway Tunnel construction.

But Sadiq doesn’t have the guts to press it, Whitehall say it’s not their hands that should do it and, clearly, the arrogant Garden Bridge Trust won’t swallow their pride to STOP their vanity dream.

Let’s have a little look at the buckshifting and who can press the button.


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Some Genuine Community Community Parks

19 Aug 2016

The Garden Bridge is a total top-down, aggressive development imposed on the local community and wider London with little consultation, no design competition, low public support and only using notions of engagement, participation and environmental or transport improvement as a smokescreen to enable public funding and create a false appearance of ‘good’. Real urban change can come from the bottom up, from citizens who best know the local needs, concerns and who will benefit most from genuine improvements. By doing this spaces then also improve for those passing through as well as for the tourists. Imagine a London with tens of thousands of bottom-up community-led improvements like this instead of huge, ecologically-damaging top-down vanity projects like the Garden Bridge.

A previous post looked at some bridges around the world to highlight the incredible expense and lack of creativity in the Garden Bridge. In this one we look at some community parks and greening strategies which both work for the community, visitor and city and offer a plethora of possibilities of how London could improve once it shakes off the shackles of the Garden Bridge.

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Newsnight’s Interview With Thomas Heatherwick

18 Aug 2016

Newsnight have published the full 30 minute interview with Thomas Heatherwick. It’s largely a well-rehearsed routine which he has repeated many times at carefully selected events – right down to the very phrasing, mid-sentence questions and intonation which is a carbon copy of his previous routines. Routines which he has never lowered himself to have with the public, critics or anyone with valid concerns about his approach.

Do have a watch and listen, but his saccharine nonsense is quite hard work. But if you can’t stomach it then I have picked out some bits so you don’t have to.

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Newsnight Finds Garden Bridge Trust Have Been Lying

17 Aug 2016

Newsnight have been looking into the Garden Bridge Trust’s funding claims, and found they have been somewhat loose with the truth (there’s a surprise).

“Some call it an expensive indulgance in a capital that has too many”, Evan Davis stated during the introduction and suggested it was “a bridge too far”, before the article went on to reveal that £20m of donations have been pulled from the development in the last 12 months and that they are currently £62m short, and not the £30m they have been claiming. It also revealed the new total cost has gone up to at least £185m and their timeline has slipped by a year.

This development which represents all that is wrong with our broken politics and society has to be put out of its misery.

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The Garden Bridge & Concern Across The UK

14 Aug 2016

Last June I wrote a post on the A Folly For London website to explain how the Garden Bridge isn’t solely a ‘local’ issue. It clearly IS a local issue – just ask the residents of the Coin Street community about the impact of the development to their lives not to mention the loss of the riverside public park – but it is also a project of direct interest to national taxpayers.

But now, at a time where austerity is biting harder than before, when the divisions between London and the rest of the UK are tangible and when the previous Tory regime’s plans and funding are under increased scrutiny absurd vanity projects, such as the Garden Bridge, are being considered within the national funding landscape.

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