* Several new bridges across the Thames will complement new housing developments in Nine Elms, the Strand, Battersea and up-and-coming Docklands
* Thomas Heatherwick has designed a giant £60 million floating garden across the Thames between Temple and the Southbank Centre
Bridges spanning the Thames have been a force for change ever since the Romans built a river crossing between the City and Southwark. More than 2,000 years later, new bridges are set to boost London’s riverside neighbourhoods and up-and-coming Docklands districts.
New bridges are seen as key pieces of modern transport infrastructure to create and encourage easy access to new areas, ease traffic flow for pedestrians, cars and cyclists.
A floating garden to link Temple to the South Bank
Fresh architectural thinking is giving bridges another purpose, as green space for Londoners, on the model of the High Line, an aerial park planted on a former railway track in New York.
Backed by Transport for London, Thomas Heatherwick, designer of the stunning Olympic cauldron, has designed a giant £60 million floating garden across the Thames between Temple and the Southbank Centre.
“The idea is simple, to connect north and south London with a garden,” he says.
Actress Joanna Lumley, a campaigner for a pedestrian-only garden bridge, said it would be sensational in every way: “A place with no noise or traffic, only birdsong and bees with trees above and below, the steady rush of water. A safe and swift way for commuters — peaceful and magical.”
No public money is earmarked for the bridge. Private finance is being sought and 2016 is the earliest possible date for completion. It will enliven the relatively quiet zone by Temple and dovetail with new homes being built in the area.
With 206 apartments, 190 Strand is the largest regeneration scheme in the area for more than a century.
The development occupies a strip of land running between Aldwych and Victoria Embankment, and will have six buildings divided by a public square and pathways sloping down to the river. To register, call St Edward Homes on 020 7118 9190.
Nine Elms proposal
Following on from the success of the Millennium Bridge, pedestrian and cycle bridges are planned further west — between Nine Elms and Pimlico and between Battersea and Chelsea Harbour.
“In Battersea we are creating new homes and jobs on an epic scale and we need new river crossings to support this growth,” says Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth council. “Nine Elms is the epicentre of the building boom but the benefits are fanning out well beyond the regeneration zone.”
An international design competition will be launched in the autumn for the Nine Elms-Pimlico bridge.
On the northern side, the bridge will emerge by St George’s Square — Pimlico’s poshest address — and give a fillip to the surrounding area, which has failed to command the status of posh Cheyne Walk, further west. Potentially, the new bridge could open up a route — and development corridor — to Sloane Square and the Chelsea heartland.
However, the waterfront is already getting a facelift. Sprawling Churchill Gardens estate, with 1,600 homes in 32 blocks facing the Thames, has been designated a conservation area and part-listed, while Dolphin Square, the 1,250-apartment complex built in the Thirties, is being rejuvenated following a change of ownership, and long- tenanted flats are coming up for sale.
The former Elephant on the River restaurant at 135 Grosvenor Road is being redeveloped into a modern, glass-clad block of eight apartments. Contact Richland Group on 020 7887 6349. And coming soon to a river-facing corner building at St George’s Square — actually a long and narrow rectangle of imposing cream-coloured stucco townhouses — is a refurbishment project bringing another 10 apartments.
Car-free crossing for Battersea and Chelsea
Wandsworth has already given planning consent for a car-free bridge between Battersea Park and Chelsea Harbour. Called the Diamond Jubilee Bridge, because it marks the place where Queen boarded the Royal Barge during her 60-year celebrations last summer, it will run alongside the listed railway bridge carrying trains from Clapham Junction to Imperial Wharf, where a new station has been built as part of the fashionable riverside housing estate. Hammersmith & Fulham council is expected to give the bridge the green light in September 2013.
Cycling initiatives backed by Mayor Boris Johnson have encouraged support for car-free bridges. According to Transport for London, bicycles now outnumber cars on Thames bridges during morning and evening peak periods. However, elsewhere in London, new road bridges are set to make life easier for car-driving commuters, particularly in born-again Docklands, where giant regeneration schemes such as Silvertown Quays are creating new districts and tens of thousands of new homes.
Thames Gateway Bridge: new crossing for east London
While there are 16 road bridges spanning the 20 miles between Tower Bridge and Kew in west, there is only one bridge — Dartford Crossing — in the east. Thames Gateway Bridge — between Beckton and Thamesmead — originally proposed by Ken Livingstone, is now back on the mayoral agenda.
This will connect Greenwich and Newham boroughs, where the lion’s share of the capital’s new homes will be built over the next decade.
A new road tunnel is also being investigated by TfL, and the Mayor has announced an upgrade of the ferry link between Gallions Reach and Woolwich.