London

Mayor Boris Johnson approves River Thames garden bridge

The bridge Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The plan for the bridge includes 270 new trees

A controversial garden bridge is to be built across the River Thames after the Mayor of London Boris Johnson approved the scheme.

The £175m footbridge will link Temple with the Southbank but has been criticised over its location and cost.

Actress Joanna Lumley came up with the idea for the crossing and it has been designed by London 2012 cauldron creator Thomas Heatherwick.

But Labour has questioned the cost of the plan.

Image caption Labour's London Assembly member John Biggs said: "You really have to wonder whether this funding could not have been better spent."

Lambeth Council and Westminster City Council have already approved planning permission.

Construction could begin next year, the mayor's office said.

It is estimated seven million trips per year will be made across the bridge.

Mr Johnson said: "The garden bridge will provide a fantastic new landmark for London whilst supporting regeneration and economic growth on both sides of the Thames.

"It will create a stunning oasis of tranquillity in the heart of our city and boost our plans to encourage walking in the city."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Image
Image caption Labour has called the mayor's decision a "mixed blessing"

Labour's finance spokesman on the London Assembly John Biggs has called the mayor's decision a "mixed blessing" - questioning the lack of "proper rights of access".

Mr Biggs said: "It's obvious that the garden bridge is primarily a tourist attraction not a transport scheme, as such you really have to wonder whether this TfL funding could not have been better spent.

"With the project set to gobble up at least £60m in taxpayer investment, the least the public will expect is proper rights of access, including at night, and guarantees that the number of corporate events closing the bridge will not increase."

Priorities questioned

Business group London First has questioned the mayor's prioritising of the bridge plan - calling for similar efforts to be put in on other projects.

Head of infrastructure David Leam said: "One of the key planks of London's future success will be its attractiveness as a global visitor destination.

"But in the short term the bridge's impact on jobs and growth in the city would be dwarfed by tunnels or bridges proposed at Silvertown and Gallions Reach in east London, on which progress has been painfully slow."

The garden bridge project has previously been criticised by nearby residents and political opponents for its location and design.

The Garden Bridge will be 1,214 ft-long (370m) long and will connect Temple on the north bank to the South Bank.

Bridge consultant Simon Bourne has previously told BBC London the cost of the bridge is "five to 10 times more than you'd expect a footbridge to be".

He said that is because of its copper cladding.

The bridge will be covered with trees and plants, arranged by television gardener Dan Pearson.

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