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.
The recent edition of The Planner, official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute, included a column from planner Chris Shepley titled “Time we agreed that not all roads must lead to London”. Considering the Londoncentric approach to general investment and development funding, he singles out the Garden Bridge, stating: “Up north, where I come from, taxpayers observe that they are contributing to the proposed Garden Bridge. They have helped pay for the Tate Modern extension, and also know that there is to be a new branch of the V&A Museum. This will not be built in some provincial place (where it might perhaps compensate for the museums that are closing in Lancashire), but in London itself.”
He is right – it isn’t just Londoners who are footing the extortionate bill for the private attraction: £30m of the Garden Bridge funding comes from the national Department for Transport pot while it should be remembered that Transport for London, which is stumping up £30m and will perhaps underwrite the £3.5m annual maintenance, is itself funded by DfT to the tune of about £700m a year (though this is being cut by 2020 due to austerity).
THE DAMAGE TO LANCASHIRE…
Shipley makes reference in his Planner article to Lancashire museums closing down, which echoes a February Guardian article by Ian Jack titled “Why is London’s Garden Bridge worth as much as five Lancashire museums? Ask Joanna Lumley“. It covers the ways in which the London chumocracy, principally members Lumley, Johnson, Heatherwick and Osborne, used entitlement and connections to push this through to the detriment of the city and country.
His piece ends with this paragraph: “So there we are. A sum of £60m, adjusted for inflation, would keep Lancashire’s museums open for nearly the next half century. Instead, thanks to the power of the chums, it will help finance an unwanted, unnecessary new ornament in London. I like London, but it isn’t hard to understand why so many other people hate the place.”
…AND TO YORKSHIRE…
The Yorkshire Post, one of the few good examples of local journalism left in the UK and at the other end of the quality-scale to the Evening Standard, discussed the Garden Bridge last March in a piece by Grant Woodward. He also relates the unwanted development to the cultural losses in his county, specifically the decision to remove arguably the world’s most important photographic archive of 270,000 images from Bradford to London.
Woodward states, “in terms of wilful abandonment this government’s treatment of the North is akin to Imelda Marcos snapping up designer shoes as millions of Filipinos languished in poverty.” and notices the London chumocracy works differently to normal society: “You have an idea, however monumentally stupid and wasteful, pitch it to someone in power who happens to be a close personal friend and hey presto, you get the tens of millions of pounds needed to fund it.”
…ALSO IN HUMBERSIDE
Earlier this month the MP for Hull North, Diana Johnson, wrote to the new Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, calling for funding to the Garden Bridge to be halted and redirected to the North where it is needed more. The full text of the letter can be read here and she argues that “At the same time as the Government have committed £60m to the Garden Bridge, critical infrastructure projects in and around my constituency have been delayed or are still awaiting approval.”
It is clear from her opening paragraph that Johnson has read up on the Garden Bridge, “As a Hull MP, I am shocked that the Government are prepared to spend at least £60m – and possibly £75m – on this project. The bridge serves no transport need, and is therefore essentially a park on a bridge. While this is a novel idea, it is proposed for a location with lots of existing local parks amenities and local bridges. It is therefore totally unnecessary. I also understand that the bridge faces strong local opposition.” She goes on to state, “If Transport for London intends to allocate £30m to such unnecessary and superfluous projects, I suggest that you re-allocate this funding away from London to areas of the country where it could be invested in desperately needed infrastructure that would be of greater economic benefit.”
FUTURE NATIONAL EXPENSE?
At a time when there are so many inquiries and eyes looking at the truths of the Garden Bridge this national outrage and disgust at the waste of public money will only grow. Let’s also not forget that if the Garden Bridge does commence construction it is highly likely to go way over budget and require further taxpayer bailouts.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, refuses to talk to the local community or opponants of the Garden Bridge – though appears to have time to speak to the developers and designers pushing it. But he may choose to listen to your MP, even if you do not live in London. So please do write to your MP and voice your concerns with the development.
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