Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Public consultation: nil

Highbridge Footbridge is a pedestrian/cycle bridge over the River Lea on the Borough boundary with Hackney. The bridge is adjacent to the Springfield Marina and is reached from a footway/cycle route that links up to Coppermill Lane. On the Hackney side of the river, the bridge leads to Spring Hill. The bridge is part of the national cycle route network.

Tonight's meeting of the Planning Committee will be invited to approve a new bridge. The current bridge was built in 1947, using paint with a high lead content. It is now rusty and in a poor state of repair. The proposal is to replace it with a bridge

similar but not identical to the existing structure. It would have the same span, but would be wider with a clear internal width of 2 metres, as compared to 1.4 metres width on the existing structure. The new bridge would also be open at the top, without the cross bracing members seen at the top of the existing bridge.

It sounds alright to me, but then I don't know anything about bridges and the published Planning Committee papers don't include a plan or drawing of the proposed replacement bridge.

What bothers me is that the Council hasn't bothered to consult anyone who uses the bridge or who has an interest in cycling or walking. The only consultees were the London Borough of Hackney, British Waterways, the Environment Agency and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. Not one of them bothered to respond.

The Council didn't bother to consult the London Cycling Campaign or either of its two local branches, in Waltham Forest and Hackney. It didn't bother to consult walking organisations like the Ramblers' Association or Living Streets. It didn't bother to consult the local Civic Society, which has an interest in architecture. It didn't bother to consult local Green organisations, such as the Lammas Lands campaign. All of these groups should have been consulted to see if they liked the new design or had any constructive suggestions. This Council, which always makes a big deal out of pretending to care what the local community thinks, simply couldn't be bothered. What do the opinions of cycling, walking and Green organisations matter? The Council planners know best.