Tuesday, 15 March 2016

If only there was some green space in London

'What if there was one place right in the middle of it all where we could all just slow down for moment, look up and see our London like we haven't seen it before'

The above is the question posed at the end of the new promotional video for the Thames Garden Bridge. And, indeed, watching the video, which, produced with Oliver Stone-style freneticism, portrays London as an unremittingly fast-paced urban brick and concrete jungle, one could certainly do with some spacious views of the Thames and a bit of leafy peace and quiet.

But, as some have noted, the video entirely ignores one of London's great assets, its beautiful and plentiful green spaces. The joys of Hyde Park, Regent's Park, St James's Park, Battersea Park, Crystal Palace Park, Hampstead Heath, Kelsey Park, Alexandra Recreation Ground, and every other green space in the capital are completely ignored. Likewise, all the walks and gardens along the Thames and the many picturesque bridges which command spacious views of the river.

Even Middle Temple Gardens and the surrounding Inns of Court, close to where the bridge is supposed to 'land' on the north bank and replete with some of the most remarkable buildings and green spaces in the capital, are overlooked. Is this because one of the express aims of the Bridge is to bring 'regeneration' to the North Bank and it wouldn't do to mention what jewels we already have - and what might be damaged - there?

Instead, the film suggests that only the Garden Bridge will provide relief from the chaos; and only the Garden Bridge will afford views of the river, glimpses of which are offered, as a final promise
, at the end of the film. It is as if pausing to look at the view from Blackfriars or Waterloo Bridge has not occurred to millions of Londoners and visitors before.

Perhaps, had those behind the wretched garden bridge themselves paused and considered what they could do with £60m of public money (yes, I know £20m is a loan, but offered on such generous terms that it barely qualifies) and £85m from private sources, something London genuinely needs could be supported, improved and championed. Considering the austerity councils are continuing to face, one of the things that gets cut the soonest is funds for public parks. Ah, the irony.

The video was released to mark the signing of the construction contract with Bouygues TP and Cimolai SpA. As there remains several planning hurdles to overcome, one cannot escape the feeling that the announcement is designed to hammer home that this is a fait accompli; that the bridge will happen and that opposition is futile. A final gift from Boris imposed upon the capital.

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