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Labour in Lambeth divided over Garden Bridge decision

The South Bank's Labour member of Parliament and three Labour councillors have criticised the Lambeth council leader's decision to reopen talks which will pave the way for the controversial £175 million Garden Bridge to be built.

Kate Hoey MP
Kate Hoey MP has warned that Lambeth Council is being pressurised by the 'establishment' into letting the Garden Bridge go ahead

On Monday Lambeth leader Cllr Lib Peck and Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan trumpeted a deal which will see 20 million of Transport for London's 30 million contribution to the Garden Bridge converted from a grant to a loan. The project is also receiving 30 million of central Government funding.

Under this week's deal, Lambeth will reopen negotiations with the Garden Bridge Trust over the land on the South Bank – currently leased to Coin Street Community Builders – where the bridge's southern landing is to be built.

The three Labour councillors for Bishop's ward – which covers Waterloo and the South Bank – have issued a statement distancing themselves from the council leadership's stance on the project.

"Whilst it's a good thing that less public money may be spent on the Garden Bridge, the funding of the bridge is not the only problem the Labour councillors for Bishop's ward have with this project," said councillors Kevin Craig, Ben Kind and Jennifer Mosley.

"Overcrowding along the South Bank, the loss of public open space and a poor choice of location are just some of the reasons why, alongside the majority of Londoners, we continue to oppose this scheme.

"From a cable car that's hardly ever used to the millions he wasted on his 'Boris Island' airport in the Thames Estuary, Boris Johnson has shown a continued disregard for taxpayer money in London.

"Given the further questions that have arisen in recent weeks regarding the procurement process for the Bridge and the decisions taken by TfL and the Garden Bridge Trust to spend tens of millions of pounds before planning permission has been granted, we continue to urge Lambeth Council to think again about its support for this project."

Vauxhall Labour MP Kate Hoey told the SE1 website that she is "shocked" by Lambeth's change of view in the six weeks since it pulled the plug on talks with the Garden Bridge Trust.

"The money issue is only one reason for opposition and it looks like the Garden Bridge's whole financial projections just don't stack up," said Ms Hoey.

"I have no idea where the pressure is coming from on the Lambeth Council leader but she should be listening to locally elected councillors and the local community and not elements of the 'establishment'."

Ms Hoey's intervention is significant because until now she has not commented publicly on the Garden Bridge other than to tell South Bank Forum meetings that she didn't believe that the bridge would ever be built.

Coin Street Community Builders – who must also cooperate with the council and the Garden Bridge Trust if a new lease is to be granted – recently updated their position to make clear that elected politicians must have the final say.

In a statement on its website, CSCB said: "The Garden Bridge would be beneficial to London and our neighbourhood if properly managed and maintained. If it is not properly managed and maintained, it will be a liability.

"Coin Street Community Builders recognise that the Garden Bridge proposal has become controversial. We have made it clear that if Lambeth, Westminster, the Mayor of London and the Government believe the project should go ahead, we will not stand in its way. However the decision needs to be taken by elected politicians."

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