The London Assembly has fought back at mayor Boris Johnson’s Garden Bridge plans, voting in favour of a motion calling for an inquiry into the embattled £175 million project.
Assembly members demanded an audit of the design competition, won by Thomas Heatherwick, and the withdrawal of Transport for London (TfL) funds from the project, which it says ‘serves no transport function’.
‘£60 million of public funding could be far better spent improving numerous parks and open spaces across the capital,’ said assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, who proposed the motion.
Valerie Shawcross, a fellow member, added: ‘The Garden Bridge was sold to Londoners as a transport project and yet it fails to guarantee public right of way or step-free access.’
She continued: ‘It is wholly inappropriate to spend £30 million of TfL funds on what is essentially a tourist attraction.’
Among other grievances were the bridge’s potential impact on historic views of the Thames. Assembly members also noted more pressing needs for a bridge in east London, between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf.
Ever since actress Joanna Lumley suggested the idea for the Garden Bridge, the project has divided opinion.
The Garden Bridge Trust’s executive director Bee Emmott defended the scheme in a letter to The Observer last weekend.
‘The bridge will bring London and Londoners, commuters and visitors alike, real benefits – ones acknowledged by supporters as varied as the architect Richard Rogers and business leaders from the north bank of the Thames,’ he said.
‘It will create a unique environment with 100,000 plants, shrubs, bulbs and trees, and new views in a city that has always embraced change.’
The London Assembly motion marks another setback at the start of a crucial period for the Garden Bridge. A judicial review looking into Lambeth Council’s decision to award planning permission will be heard next week.