Transport for London (TfL) has denied inappropriately pressurising Lambeth Council to give planning consent for the controversial Garden Bridge across the Thames.
But the council has confirmed that it was ‘lobbied extensively by a range of organisations’.
Two councillors in the London borough have written to its head of governance seeking a review of its planning process and complaining that officials failed to give the scheme proper scrutiny.
They have alleged that they were told by a fellow councillor that TfL had warned the council of negative financial consequences if it did not reverse its initial opposition to the bridge.
A TfL spokesperson told Transport Network: ‘This accusation is completely untrue and we look forward to continuing to work with Lambeth Council on a number of schemes across the borough, including the Garden Bridge. The Garden Bridge was subject to all of the normal scrutiny, challenge and debate you would expect with any major planning application.’
A view of the bridge: an artist's impression
A spokesperson for Lambeth Council confirmed that the councillors' claims were being ‘thoroughly investigated’ but described allegations of pressure from TfL as ‘nothing more than hearsay and unsubstantiated rumour’.
He said: ‘Lambeth council’s decision making process is robust, transparent and independent. As one of the two local planning authorities, it has been lobbied extensively by a range of organisations, individuals and campaign groups both in favour of, and opposed to, the Garden Bridge.’
Last autumn the Council reversed its opposition to the proposed bridge after TfL said that £20m of its £30m contribution would be treated as a loan to be paid back over 50 years.
Separately, the local Waterloo Community Development Group has written to Lambeth chief executive Sean Harris stating that it is ‘presently taking legal advice as to the potential merits of bringing a legal challenge in respect of a number of issues’ in relation to the bridge.
The group also asked for last night’s meeting of the council’s planning applications committee to be postponed. Lambeth Council told Transport Network that the meeting ‘went ahead as usual’.