Work on Thames 'garden bridge' could start next year

Reports that construction of a 'garden bridge' over the River Thames could start next year after the scheme secured a second planning permission feature in today's newspaper round-up.

The Telegraph reports that the structure was approved by Westminster City Council having already been given a green light by the London Borough of Lambeth, the other authority involved in the development. "Now the scheme needs to be rubber-stamped by Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, before it can be built. Mr Johnson has strongly backed the idea, saying it would help make the capital ‘a more walkable and liveable city’", the newspaper reports.

But writing in the Financial Times (subscription required), architect, writer and critic Edwin Heathcote questions the newly approved, privately run landmark. Heathcote writes: "It will be a privately-run, ticketed tourist destination, a phrase to make any Londoner’s heart sink. Yet it is proposed that the £175 million project (it was proposed last year at £60 million) will also receive £60 million in public funding. Is this really what London needs? Tourist tat posing as infrastructure in order to siphon off public money?"

Writing in the Guardian, columnist Peter Hetherington says chancellor George Osborne "should allow councils more freedom to raise money and coordinate services, but this is no substitute for an active state working to deliver fairness". Hetherington says England "once had a wide-ranging regeneration agency, charged with renewing urban areas and partnering local government where necessary. It had an active regional policy. It had committed ministers from both major parties – Michael Heseltine, John Major and John Prescott, for instance – travelling the country. We felt they governed for all. Now, aside from a pre-electioneering chancellor – MP for Tatton, Cheshire – there is precious little. What a country. What a mess!"

The Guardian reports that "the number of tenants evicted from their homes in England and Wales hit record levels in November". The newspaper says that figures from the Ministry of Justice "show that 11,100 properties were repossessed by bailiffs between July and September this year, the highest quarterly figure since records began in 2000. The homelessness charity Shelter estimates that over 1,300 people a day (560 households) in England are put at risk from eviction or repossession".

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