Council ‘has always backed Garden Bridge’

Artist’ impression of the proposed south landing building of the Garden Bridge
Artist’ impression of the proposed south landing building of the Garden Bridge

Lambeth council has always supported in principle the controversial pedestrian-only Garden Bridge across the Thames, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration said last night (21 April).

Councillor Jack Hopkins was answering questions as to why a crucial decision on the bridge had not come to full council, or even the council cabinet, when other controversial issues like Lambeth’s libraries and the demolition of the Cressingham Gardens estate had.

Hopkins, who took over responsibility for libraries earlier this month, was addressing members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.

It was considering an application from the three councillors of Bishop’s Ward – where the southern end of the bridge will be – for the decision by Hopkins to be sent back to him for reconsideration.

Committee members also had the option of doing nothing or merely making written recommendations without referring the decision back.

After a long, technical and complicated discussion, punctuated by angry protests from anti-bridge campaigners, it was left to the casting vote of committee chairman Ed Davie to back the option of written recommendations only. Four councillors had backed reference back and four recommendations only. None had chosen the do-nothing option.

Hopkins said: “The council has always, in principle, supported the Garden Bridge”.

And he said that his decision to allow council officers to negotiate variations in the “heads of terms” of a lease – meaning the decision would not be considered by the full council or its cabinet – was, in fact, a way of ensuring transparency.

“The point of me making this decision to authorise officers to conclude negotiations is so that the heads of terms can be out in the public sphere – exactly for this purpose,” he said.

“Can you explain that again?” asked one apparently astonished councillor.

Background: the critics’ accusations and Hopkins’ response.

Masochists among our readers can see a video of the entire two-hour meeting thanks to our friends at the London SE1 community website.


  1. The problem with Jack Hopkins on the Garden Bridge is that at critical moments the truth eludes him and he departs upon a cloud of fantasy. Unfortunately, so do his officers.

    At Scrutiny Committee Jack didn’t know the size of the parkland being concreted with a large commercial building to provide Lambeth a ‘windfall income stream’, which is being built by the Garden Bridge Trust and donated to Coin St and Lambeth as a payment for reneging on their duties as custodians of the open space. His officers suggested 410m2. In fact its twice the size. Jack described the site as concrete riverwalk – in fact it’s entirely grass and trees. Jack didn’t even know he wasn’t any longer responsible for Strategic Transport – now in Jenifer Brathwaite’s Cabinet portfolio – and so Jack shouldn’t even be taking the decision. But, to be fair, none of the other councillors or officers knew this either, despite the fact that they had agreed this at Full Council only the week before. [Memo to self: stop wasting time reading Lambeth Council papers, nobody else does].

    However, all nine backbench councillors on the Scrutiny Committee seemed to understand better than senior cabinet member Jack that the Council had no policy position on the Garden Bridge project, and had never discussed it at any forum (Labour Group, Cabinet, Full Council). Jack initially thought policy had been created by the Planning Committee approval of the planning application – completely failing to understand the legal framework within the Council operates and planning applications are considered… which is a problem, since he is Cabinet member for Planning (oops).

    Jack then logically concluded that, if the Council had never agreed a policy, and yet the Council supported the Garden Bridge project now, then, by definition, they must have always supported it, before the start of time itself, or perhaps since Lambeth’s Council’s creation in 1965 maybe. The notion that the Council didn’t in fact support the Garden Bridge, while he doggedly did, simply because his controller Lib Peck did, didn’t enter his head.

    But then Lib Peck also doesn’t know that she supports the Garden Bridge, or why: it’s in the wrong place, she says, and shouldn’t be paid for by us, but she continues to use up her fast dwindling political capital in a vain effort to salvage Boris’ parting gift to London.

    So why does she support it? Maybe we should ask her controller? Sue Foster was unavailable for comment.

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