New bridges

MQT on 2014-12-17
Session date: 
December 17, 2014
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Following the approval of planning permission by Lambeth and Westminster Councils, please provide an update on the Garden Bridge proposal.


Answer for New bridges

Answer for New bridges

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Yes.  Thank you.  “The Bridge of Sighs”, says the heckler from the right.


Darren Johnson AM:  That was a clever heckle, though.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  OK.  Can we stick to my question --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It will be as ‑‑

Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Could we stop the clock?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As my cousin Darren says, it was an entirely apposite heckle because it will be as beautiful as the Bridge of Sighs, it will be as much of a tourist attraction and it will last even longer.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If the Labour Party really wants to oppose things that are beautiful, things that are wonderful and things that will add to the economy of this city, it is their privilege.  They can do it.  I am not going to stand in their way.  If this is really the kind of politics they want to adopt, endlessly mealy-mouthed and hopeless and showing a complete lack of vision ‑‑


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  It was a question and update on the Garden Bridge.  He is responding to Labour Party heckles.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ they are entitled to do it.  Chair, through you, if I am continually heckled, I will answer the heckler.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Stop the clock.  I have not had an answer to my question.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Can you stop for a moment?  The Liberal Democrats are a small group and do not have much time.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Frankly, Chair, it is up to you ‑‑


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  I would suggest you use that time answering their question rather than dealing with heckling from the Labour Members, which they should cease.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is up to you, Chair, to manage the heckling.  If you are not going to do it, I am going to answer the hecklers.


John Biggs AM:  What about your heckling?


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Answer the question.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am very happy to answer the Liberal Democrat question if you will do something to stop the interruptions.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  We will see how it goes.  Could you answer Caroline’s [Pidgeon MBE AM] question?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  The answer to Caroline’s question is of course that the Garden Bridge has received planning approval so far from Westminster and Lambeth.  The Garden Bridge Trust is responsible for raising all the necessary funding for the bridge.  On current timetables, the construction contract will be let by the autumn of 2015 and construction will begin by early 2016.  The plan at present is that the bridge should open to the public by 2018, Caroline.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Lovely.  Thank you for that.  There are some Londoners who have concerns about the bridge and how money is being spent and I would just like to clarify a few issues with you this morning.  We have £60 million in public money committed.  Can you therefore explain why Londoners will not be able to cross the bridge 24 hours a day and why they should accept it is going to be closed at least once a month for fundraisers?  Can you explain why it is not just going to be a public right-of-way?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Londoners will of course be able to cross the bridge.  Insofar as there are restrictions, it is because it is by its nature a park as well as a thoroughfare and it is important that it should retain a pleasant, bosky, verdant atmosphere.  It should be a place of culture and rest and repose, the kind of place where a Labour Assembly Member could go and collect his or her thoughts shortly before ‑‑


John Biggs AM:  Heckling.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ deciding that the only sensible thing to do is to launch him or herself into the current, well --


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Please, this is --stop that.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Could I just ask?  You expect me to stop the Labour Group heckling and then you goad them and try to make them do it.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Just stop the clock.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Can you not create trouble for yourself and address the person who is asking the question?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Surely you (inaudible[AH1] )


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I am sitting over here.  Why do you not just look over in this direction?  I am asking the question.


Thank you for that answer and saying that it is a park.  However, we have also learned through the planning process that groups of eight or more will have to request permission to access the bridge.  Does this mean there is going to have to be some kind of ticketing system in place?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, not as far as I know.  There will no ticketing system in place.  This is all for consultation, Caroline, and this is at a very early stage and is by no means set in stone.  The objective is to avoid the thing being taken over by huge groups that might want to demonstrate, disrupt the movement of others across the bridge, do damage to the foliage or the flowers or whatever.  That is probably the objective.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Deputy Chair):  That is inane.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  That is a really bizarre answer, but OK.  It sounds to me like you will have to have ticketing.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You will have to forgive me.  None of this is set in stone and so I cannot give you the precise explanation for something that after all has not yet been adopted as the way forward for the bridge.  We will have to see.  One of the questions is whether we should allow dogs on the bridge and ‑‑


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  That is not a question I am asking you today, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It is something that people have mixed views on.  Some people are pro-dog.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I want to move on.  It is effectively a park ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Some people are anti-dog.  Dog mess is a serious business.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Mr Mayor, your behaviour this morning is extraordinary.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  Unfortunately, it is not, but carry on.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I am trying to ask you some very sensible questions to get some clarity.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am doing my best.  I am only doing my best, Caroline.  I am giving you as much as I possibly can.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Your report would say “not good enough”, to be honest.  The bridge is going to be closed at night.  You may have to get a ticket.  You cannot cycle on it.  You have given some other descriptions this morning.  You have described it as “a bridge with no purpose other than to recreate the soul”.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That sounds like a fairly substantial objective.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  This is actually suggesting it is more of a tourist attraction rather than a mode of transport when there are other cycle and footbridges elsewhere that really could benefit from this money.  Crucially, what I want to ask ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Are you against this project, Caroline?


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  What I want to ask you today, crucially, is that ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Are you against it?


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  ‑‑ Westminster Council in its condition for granting planning permission has said that TfL must underwrite the maintenance costs, which are expected to be around £3.5 million each year.  You are going to make a decision or an announcement on this on Friday.  Can you confirm whether you will agree to this condition?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I can confirm that no such agreement has been made and nor will I make any undertaking to do so.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  It is in the planning permission from Westminster.  Does that mean it will not be able to go ahead?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I cannot go further than to say I have made no such undertaking and nor do I intend to make any such undertaking.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  You will not commit to that?  OK.  Thank you.  Very clear.  Thank you for that answer.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You should be clear about whether you think this is a good project or not, rather than endlessly trying to score points off what is a beautiful scheme.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I asked for some clarity.  Thank you.