Strict laws to be enforced on London’s Garden Bridge

Rules set to come into force governing access to Thomas Heatherwick’s London Garden Bridge will not allow groups of more than eight people to cross together without special permission.

The move is aimed at preventing the landscaped structure across the River Thames becoming a focal point for protests and demonstrations.

When construction was suggested over a year ago, actress Joanna Lumley – who first put forward the idea for a vegetation covered pedestrian link between the north and south river banks – said it would provide a “safe and swift way for the weary commuter to make his way back over the Thames”.

Calling the project a “tiara on the head of our fabulous city” she said as well as a tranquil space for visitors it would be an urban space where “the only sounds will be birdsong and bees buzzing and the wind in the trees”.

But details have emerged of the stringent regulations  which will be enforced when the $250m project is completed.

As it would straddle two London boroughs, both Lambeth and Westminster councils need to approve its development – and a total of 40 public safety rules have been drawn up.

Lambeth councillors have ruled that the bridge would need to comply with a number of stipulations – including the requirement for groups of eight or more to formerly apply to cross  in order to prevent the site becoming a gathering point for protests.

In a statement the authority said: “This policy would not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge.”

Additionally cyclists may have to dismount in order to cross and the bridge it will close up to 12 times a year to host fundraising events and will be shut from midnight to 6am each day.

The bridge will measure some 6,000m2 but less than half of that – about 2,700m2 – will be planted land. It is expected to attract 30,000 visitors a day.

Prominent architectural critic Rowan Moore has attacked the project calling it: “nothing but a wasteful blight” – although he acknowledged that support for it “has been overwhelming,”

But both Heatherwick and Lumley remain upbeat.

Lumley said: “I’m grateful that Lambeth council has seen the potential of this stunning new public garden and crossing. The bridge is a fantastic example of innovative thinking.

“It will help to enhance the quality of life in London for both local communities and visitors alike and is a project the UK can be proud of.”

Heatherwick – whose other recent projects include a central park for the city of Abu Dhabi – added: “The bridge will be an extraordinarily special place, either to race across, relax in or look back at the rest of the city’s sights.”