Councillor replies to Garden Bridge critics

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

Any income Lambeth council receives from a new building that would be part of the proposed Garden Bridge “will be invested in the local area”, Jack Hopkins, council cabinet member for regeneration, business and culture, has said.

The pledge came in a detailed response to three local councillors who have challenged a council decision on the controversial bridge.

The “south landing building” at the Lambeth end of the bridge would be on land owned by the council that is leased to Coin Street Community Builders.

The terms of the lease must be varied to allow construction of the building. The three councillors have challenged Hopkins’ decision to delegate a decision on this to council officials, citing lack of consultation and the cost to the public sector of the privately run bridge.

Together with the council’s strategic director for neighbourhoods and growth, Sue Foster, Hopkins has issued a point-by-point response to the councillors ahead of a meeting on Thursday (April 21) to consider their objections.

It says the decision “followed correct constitutional procedures” and was delegated to officials to enable them to negotiate any variation to the lease, as is usual. Any important changes would be referred back to Hopkins.

The response also says that he “properly took into consideration relevant responses” to consultations”.

It says: “There is no constitutional requirement to consult on decisions taken relating to variations of leases. The consultation referred to in the report took place when a disposal of open space was anticipated (and the council has a statutory duty to advertise this fact in local press for two weeks).

“Due to the number of objections received, it was felt that even though a disposal was no longer proposed, the cabinet member should be made aware of the objections received under that consultation process. The facts set out the exact number and nature of objections received.”

Responding to the three councillors’ accusation that he “has wilfully ignored a significant number of requests by local elected members to engage during the consultation period”, Hopkins’ response says there had been requests that the council publish its proposed “heads of terms” for the agreement to vary the lease.

It had decided to do so, despite the fact that “negotiation of heads of terms is usually commercially sensitive and therefore restricted”.

Replying to an accusation that the extent of public opposition to the bridge had been misrepresented in the media, the response said: Misrepresentation or otherwise in the press is not a factor in relation to the proposed variation to the lease, so has not been addressed in this report”.

Responding to concerns about the cost of the bridge, Hopkins says: “The recommendations in the report made it very clear that there is to be no financial cost to the council now or in the future”.

At least £60 million of public money, and as much as £90 million, is expected to be spent on the bridge. Sadiq Khan, Labour candidate for London mayor, has withdrawn opposition to the bridge. Building work is scheduled to start this summer.

The full response document is available on Lambeth council website.