Lambeth council has always supported in principle the controversial pedestrian-only Garden Bridge across the Thames, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration said last night (21 April).
Councillor Jack Hopkins was answering questions as to why a crucial decision on the bridge had not come to full council, or even the council cabinet, when other controversial issues like Lambeth’s libraries and the demolition of the Cressingham Gardens estate had.
Hopkins, who took over responsibility for libraries earlier this month, was addressing members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee.
It was considering an application from the three councillors of Bishop’s Ward – where the southern end of the bridge will be – for the decision by Hopkins to be sent back to him for reconsideration.
Committee members also had the option of doing nothing or merely making written recommendations without referring the decision back.
After a long, technical and complicated discussion, punctuated by angry protests from anti-bridge campaigners, it was left to the casting vote of committee chairman Ed Davie to back the option of written recommendations only. Four councillors had backed reference back and four recommendations only. None had chosen the do-nothing option.
Hopkins said: “The council has always, in principle, supported the Garden Bridge”.
And he said that his decision to allow council officers to negotiate variations in the “heads of terms” of a lease – meaning the decision would not be considered by the full council or its cabinet – was, in fact, a way of ensuring transparency.
“The point of me making this decision to authorise officers to conclude negotiations is so that the heads of terms can be out in the public sphere – exactly for this purpose,” he said.
“Can you explain that again?” asked one apparently astonished councillor.