Boat race fans standing by Putney Bridge to watch the rowers on Saturday might spot the large holes drilled into the granite walls of the Grade II-listed monument — but not be aware of the bizarre story behind them. However, last week, Wandsworth council succeeded in obtaining an injunction against struck-off architect Clifford Gardner — owner of a very large drill.
The story began three months ago when the council discovered mysterious holes in the bridge — still clearly visible from the riverside slipway. An investigation showed they had been made by a high-powered, diamond-tipped drill. The drillers’ aim, apparently, was to discover whether the vaults below the bridge could be used as part of an extension to a nearby building. The bridge vaults are connected to the basement of a property in Putney High Street.
Mr Gardner has since explained that he hopes to convert part of the structure to create a riverside bar or restaurant with magnificent views of the Thames. Wandsworth council is appalled. It insists no planning permission has been granted to investigate the bridge or its vaults and that the bridge has been seriously damaged. Mr Gardner has been ordered to cease drilling work immediately.
Damaging a monument can lead to prosecution with penalties that include fines of up to £20,000 and even two years imprisonment. But Mr Gardner insists: “All planning permissions and listed building consents were applied for and granted.”
However, a council spokesman said: “Planning permission was been granted for works at 4-6 Putney High Street. They had nothing to do with the bridge — and the damage that has subsequently been caused.
“There is no listed building consent for the works to the bridge wall as numerous conditions were attached that Mr Gardner has not met. Nor does he have the permission of the owner — which is ourselves. You can see the holes quite clearly. Now he has been stopped.”
In April 2005 Mr Gardner was struck off the architects’ register by its Professional Conduct Committee, which found that he had practised without indemnity insurance.