In Brief

Garden bridge for Thames gets go-ahead from Mayor's office

Joanna Lumley's idea for a green footbridge to go ahead, costing £175m and generating controversy

A new pedestrian bridge across the Thames in London, described as a "floating garden" because it will be covered with plants and trees, has been give the planning go-ahead, signed off by the Mayor's office despite causing controversy.

The bridge, originally conceived by actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley, has been designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the man behind the much-admired cauldron for the 2012 London Olympics, explains London's Evening Standard.

It will be 366 metres long, sited between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges and is projected to open to the public in summer 2018. Its surface area will be 6,000 square metres, of which just under half will be devoted to plants.

The planting will be laid out in five distinct gardens linked by meandering paths, planned by TV gardener Dan Pearson. It is estimated that seven million trips per year will be made across the new footbridge.

London mayor Boris Johnson hailed the bridge this morning as a "fantastic new landmark" and a "stunning oasis of tranquillity" which will support "regeneration and economic growth".

Not everybody is delighted by the prospect: the bridge has been described as a vanity project for Johnson with no value for public transport. Earlier this year, shadow transport minister Lord Davies of Oldham dubbed it a "very expensive piece of public art", recalls the BBC.

There are concerns that the bridge will not open at night, not allow cyclists, not be open to large groups including protests, will obstruct views of St Paul's Cathedral and will necessitate cutting down at least 27 mature trees at the South Bank end.

The Standard points out that £65m of the £175m budget has still to be found. The Mayor's office has committed £30m, matched by the Treasury. A further £50m is promised from private donations.

In September, The Guardian claimed Johnson had given the impression the bridge would cost only £4m in public money.

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