Following WAN’s recent reporting of the growing controversy over London’s proposed Garden Bridge, we tabled the concerns to the UK’s Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey MP.
Questions were originally asked about the procurement process, this led to the more fundamental challenge as to whether we should be building infrastructure to support a garden at all (unlike New York’s highly successful HighLine) finally the spotlight is landing on the proposed restricted access to the bridge excluding dogs and cyclists.
WAN’s Kerry Boettcher and Anthony Spratt take on the Minister.
On the GARDEN BRIDGE
Kerry Boettcher (Editor WAN): As far as other big projects in London there’s one particularly controversial one regarding the bridge [Garden Bridge]. Do you think that scheme has been properly thought through or is it trying to imitate the New York HighLine?
Ed Vaizey MP: We’re very supportive of the Garden Bridge. I think the Chancellor’s given it…I can’t remember whether he’s given it money directly or let ‘them’ off the VAT for certain things…but it’s got planning permission now, it’s being designed by one of our foremost designers, Thomas Heatherwick, so…
Anthony Spratt (WAN): Do you think the planning application…or rather the competition was fair, as there didn’t seem to be an open competition for it? Is that the way forward for a bridge that’s meant to be public space but it doesn’t seem to be that public? it’s going to be closed at certain times of the day, not open to pedestrians at certain times of the day, it’s not open to cyclists at all. Is that what we want from a bridge across the Thames at the moment?
EV: It’s not built yet but I am sure people will be able to feed in their views as progress is made towards realising this fantastic vision. I mean…I know Thomas a bit and he’s a very open, a very inclusive designer, so…I’m sure if people have concerns it’ll be easy to raise them.
On the proposed new London concert hall
KB: I think it's great news about the new world class concert hall that's been agreed. I think it'll put London on the map as a world class centre for the arts. I wonder if you knew of any sites planned for it?
EV: Yes there are.
KB: And where is that?
EV: I can’t tell you. It hasn’t been agreed yet. It’s an ambition and aspiration. Obviously Simon Rattle has decided to come back because he's heard positive news...positive messages from the government. He’s met senior ministers of government and the City of London Corporation is obviously very supportive. There just needs to be a potential re-jigging, the most likely outcome, (I don’t know that it’s a particular secret), is that you move the Museum of London to another location because that’s a very difficult site, but that would give the chance to redevelop where the Museum of London is and you could put the concert hall there with some commercial buildings. It’s a big project: it’ll be a nine figure sum.