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Legal challenge to London 'Garden Bridge'

Lambeth resident takes legal action over plans for Garden Bridge over the River Thames in London

The Royal Courts of Justice

17 February 2015


Legal challenge to Thames Garden Bridge Legal action in the High Court has begun over plans to build a 366m pedestrian ‘garden bridge’ over the River Thames. The legal challenge to the garden bridge has been taken by a Lambeth resident who claims the decision by London Borough of Lambeth to grant planning permission for the bridge was unlawful.

Lawyers for Michael Ball from Tulse Hill in Lambeth are arguing that Lambeth Council failed to comply with its duty to protect the settings of listed buildings in the area, including Somerset House and they claim that the long-term funding arrangements for the operation and maintenance of the bridge have not been properly considered.

Construction on the Garden Bridge, which would be managed by the Garden Bridge Trust, is due to start later this year. The plans for the bridge show it spanning the River Thames between Temple tube station on the north bank and the Queen’s Walk on the south bank.
 
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Before and After: Photo Montage of what bridge might look like: by Michael Ball

Mr Ball, who was born close to the site, has consistently opposed the development, and made both written and oral representations to the planning committees involved about a range of matters including the impact the bridge will have for residents of and visitors to the South Bank and changing views to and from Somerset House resulting in a significant permanent adverse effect on its historic character and its setting.

Concerns have also been raised about the inadequate funding arrangements for the tourist attraction – in particular the lack of evidence of the ability of the Garden Bridge Trust to properly cost or fund the maintenance of the bridge during its 125 year lifetime, and the likely implications of a failure of funding.

Mr Ball is a former Director of Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG), a registered charity and community planning organisation which has consulted and campaigned on planning policies and proposals since 1972.

Mr Ball explained why he was bringing the case: “The impact of the Garden Bridge will be devastating. The best views of the City and St Paul’s will be compromised from Waterloo Bridge and entirely blocked along the South Bank, one of the great promenades of Europe and London’s most popular walking area. With football-match sized crowds blocking the riverwalk, and long queuing times predicted, even TFL admit it will become ‘very uncomfortable’ on the South Bank, and could end up dangerous.

"In return for this we get a private bridge with no right of way, closed once or twice a month, and with restricted access. But even this is not guaranteed: despite £64m from the public purse the Trust have produced no evidence that they can raise the £3.5m annual running costs – four times the cost of maintaining other London bridges – and we all may end up picking up the tab.

"I have been particularly aggrieved at the manner in which this proposal and planning application has been handled by Lambeth and by other agencies of government, starting with private letters to Boris Johnson, bypassing both strategic planning and public procurement rules, and sustained by a flawed and inadequate planning scrutiny.

"Decisions as important as this need to be taken properly and got right, for Londoners now and for coming generations.”

Richard Stein, from the human rights team at law firm Leigh Day said:

“This seems like a poorly thought through project which, although attractive at first glance, on reflection is seriously deficient in a number of important respects. This is reflected by the growing public concern expressed about the bridge. We are asking the court to quash the planning permission and to send the project back to Lambeth for much more careful consideration before such a significant change is made to the historic heart of London.”

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