London's River Thames garden bridge a 'vanity project'

Visualisation of the view at night Image copyright Heatherwick Studio
Image caption The bridge will be covered with plants arranged by gardener Dan Pearson

A proposed "garden bridge" over the River Thames has been labelled as a "vanity project" of the Mayor of London, a Labour party peer has said.

The £150m bridge is the idea of actress Joanna Lumley and has been designed by London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic cauldron creator Thomas Heatherwick.

Shadow transport minister Lord Davies of Oldham described the bridge as a "very expensive piece of public art".

The government said the scheme would increase visitor numbers to London.

'Cost to taxpayer'

During question time at the House of Lords, Lord Davies said Treasury Minister Lord Deighton was answering for the government on the issue rather than a transport minister "because the bridge can scarcely be defined as a means of transport".

The government has pledged £30m towards the bridge which will link London's Southbank to the north side of the river at Temple underground station.

Last month a public consultation on the project closed, after which the developers were expected to apply for planning approval.

It is hoped that work on the 1,214 ft-long (370m) pedestrian crossing will start next year and the bridge will be open by 2017.

Image copyright Heatherwick Studio
Image caption It is hoped that the bridge will be open by 2017

Lord Davies said: "It is a very expensive piece of public art. It is a vanity project of the mayor.

"We know where his vanity projects have gone and what they have cost the country in terms of the cycle hire scheme, which is in trouble, the Emirates gondola crossing down at Greenwich, that carries so few passengers as to be risible, and, of course, the taxpayer is going to have to pick up the bill."

'Two for one'

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

Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a former law lord and independent cross-bencher, said there was no need for another crossing at that part of the river.

He asked Lord Deighton: "Why waste £30m of public money on creating a so-called garden bridge?

"There are gardens all along the embankment from the Inner Temple garden to Westminster where trees are growing."

Speaking on behalf of the government, Lord Deighton told peers: "The key to the garden bridge is it is two for the price of one - it is a garden and a bridge and combines the benefits of both."

He said the Treasury would provide £30m to support the bridge if a business case proved it was value for money.

He added that the new transport connection would "switch people out of cars on to their feet" and increase London visitor numbers.

"There is significant development value - you are really connecting up the South Bank and the creative centre there with Aldwych and Covent Garden," he said.

"The development it will bring on each side will be of significant value."

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