Thames 'garden bridge' to be 'privately managed tourist attraction'

Reports that conditions included in a planning approval for 'garden bridge' across the Thames mean the structure will be a 'privately-managed tourist attraction likely to require advance booking' feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Guardian reports that conditions in the planning approval for the scheme state that: "All groups of eight or more visitors would be required to contact the Garden Bridge Trust to request a formal visit to the bridge"... "This policy would not only assist visitor management but also would discourage protest groups from trying to access the bridge." The newspaper says such measures suggest "that the garden bridge, as its critics have suspected, is not in fact a bridge – in the sense of being a public right of way across the river – but another privately managed tourist attraction, on which £60 million of public money is to be lavished. A limit on group sizes suggests a ticketing system will have to be put in place".

The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that Westminster, "London’s biggest borough for employment, has lost enough office space for 78,000 workers as a result of the government making it easier for developers to convert offices into homes". The newspaper says that new research commissioned by the Westminster Property Association has found that one in every 20 square metres of office space in Westminster has been lost in the past four years – a total of half a million square metres. Just 120,000 square metres of new space was developed in the same period, according to Westminster City Council".

The Times (subscription required) reports that Country Life magazine has said the countryside is "under threat from predatory developers who have been ‘let of the leash’ thanks to new planning rules". The newspaper says that, Clive Aslet, Country Life's editor at large, said that "villages were powerless to protect the countryside from ugly, inappropriate housing".

The Times also reports that the first national tree count "has revealed that there are 280 million trees in England and Wales, with the most densely covered green areas being Surrey and London". The newspaper says that the "exhaustive tree survey was carried out using the latest aerial mapping technology".

Writing in the Guardian, columnist Simon Jenkins says big supermarkets "may be dying but they leave a plague on the landscape". Jenkins says: "Drive anywhere in Britain today and you will see a grim phenomenon. Dotting the roadside, punctuating the high street, scattered through every suburb, are the carcasses of abandoned petrol stations. Once they were the future. To planners they could do no wrong. They broke all planning rules every couple of miles, lest the great god traffic ran out of fuel. Signs and canopies with garish logos defaced every village. Racks of groceries wiped out local stores. Now the ugly sites litter town and country alike. No one has the guts to demand their owners reinstate the land they despoiled. For petrol station now read hypermarket".

The Guardian also reports that Prince Charles "is ready to reshape the monarch’s role when he becomes king and make ‘heartfelt interventions’ in national life in contrast to the Queen’s taciturn discretion on public affairs, his allies have said". The newspaper says that in "signs of an emerging strategy that could risk carrying over the controversy about his alleged meddling in politics into his kingship, sources close to the heir say he is set to continue to express concerns and ask questions about issues that matter to him, such as the future of farming and the environment, partly because he believes he has a duty to relay public opinion to those in power". The Prince has spoken out in the past on planning and architecture issues.

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