Interview

The Rotherhithe Bridge Talks/ Caroline Pidgeon

4th October 2016 will be remembered in Rotherhithe as a significant date for the peninsula and the surrounding areas. The much needed and demanded pedestrian link between Canary Wharf and their southern neighbours in SE16 got the back up from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. WISE16 contacted Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon to hear her views as part of a series of articles  about the impact that the bridge will have in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey

Reform Architects - Rotherhithe Pedestrian Bridge design

Reform Architects – Rotherhithe Pedestrian Bridge design


caroline-pidgeonWhat was your reaction when the bridge got the go-ahead?

CP / I was delighted by Sadiq Khan’s announcement earlier this month that the proposed Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge is definitely going ahead, with the prospect that the bridge could even in be built by 2020. As I think every reader of this website knows this bridge is desperately needed, providing for the first time the opportunity for people to cross the Thames by foot or bike in a part of London where it is near impossible to do so at present.

How would the bridge impact in the area?

CP/ It will help people living in Surrey Docks and Rotherhithe in particular, but it will also provide a very useful link for people living in nearby areas in the north of Lewisham and Greenwich. The new bridge will make it easier for people south of the river to link to Cycle Superhighway 3 – the East-West Cycle Superhighway – as well as provide people north of the river better access to the Thames Path and planned cycle routes throughout Southwark.

People living near to Canary Wharf will also have the opportunity to start enjoying the wonderful outdoors spaces in Rotherhithe such as Stave Hill Ecology Park, Surrey Docks Farm, the Russia Dock Woodland or the Brunel Museum, Canada Water Plaza market and library. Rotherhithe peninsula is home to many pubs such as the Blacksmith’s Arms, Old Salt Quay or London’s oldest pub on the River Thames the Mayflower. Therefore, the bridge will be a great boost to many retailers and small businesses in this part of SE16 and beyond.

How about jobs and transport?

CP/ The bridge will open up employment opportunities for people in SE16 and further afield, as well as serving people who simply want to walk or cycle across the Thames for reasons of leisure or to access shops and other facilities. It will also have the added bonus of relieving pressure on the Jubilee Line, where there are serious overcrowding problems, especially at Canada Water station and it will provide huge benefits yet avoid the downside of generating more road traffic and pollution. It really is no exaggeration to say that the bridge is a win-win project for almost everyone.

Has the bridge been a political battleground?

The Rotherhithe Bridge

CP/ Of course as the campaign for the bridge has grown so has the growing number of politicians that want to be associated with the project. I certainly welcome the support given in recent weeks from MPs such as Vicky Foxcroft, Heidi Alexander and Jim Fitzpatrick. However we should not forget that this has been a long and hard fought campaign. It was due to Sir Simon Hughes, who worked tirelessly with Sustrans to get the concept established and for the coalition of support to build up, that I first started getting involved in the campaign for the bridge over two years ago.

And while Sadiq Khan should of course be praised for taking the bridge forward I would also like to put on record his honesty in admitting that he literally took the idea from me during the Mayoral campaign. Imitation is sometimes a pleasant compliment in politics!

Straight after the election I obviously felt a need to hold the Mayor to account and my very first question to the new Mayor was on the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge. Looking ahead we now need to just get on and ensure the bridge is built.

What lessons can we learn from the past?

Caroline PidgeonCP/ It is though vital that lessons are learnt from the fiasco of the Garden Bridge, where huge errors were made in relation to procurement and the funding arrangements. The Mayor is correct to state that any procurement must be undertaken in a completely transparent way with engagement with the market. Funding of the bridge is obviously another issue that needs to be resolved. Clearly there is a case for core funding from TfL, however significant contributions should be sought from many of the developers in the area. Indeed the bridge will almost certainly lead to an uplift in property and land values so a significant contribution from developers is entirely equitable and reasonable.

Any other thought about the project?

CP/ We also need to ensure that the widest number of people are able to benefit from the bridge. That must mean continued improvements in cycling infrastructure in south east London, including more segregated cycle lanes and real improvements to many junctions. The bridge also needs to be accompanied by an expansion of the cycle hire scheme. It is simply wrong that at present, for people south of the Thames, the most eastward docking stations is just a few hundred metres from City Hall. It is vital that the cycle hire scheme is extended through Bermondsey and into the Rotherhithe peninsula.

Let’s get the details right, but most importantly let’s get on and build this much needed bridge.

 

caroline-pidgeon

Canary Wharf can be seen behind this photo of Caroline Pidgeon, one of the areas to benefit most from the Bridge along with Rotherhithe

Caroline Pidgeon Biography

Caroline is a Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and was the Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate in 2016. She is currently Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee and a member of the Police and Crime Committee and the Budget and Performance Committee. She was first elected to the London Assembly in May 2008 and has a strong track record of campaigning on issues such as strong policing and improved public transport.

Caroline has been a Trustee of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in Waterloo since 2005 and she was a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority between 2008 and 2012 and the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority between 2008 and 2010. A Liberal Democrat Councillor in Southwark between 1998 and 2010 during which time she held several posts including Deputy Leader of Southwark Council and Executive Member for Children’s Services and Education. Caroline was also a Board Member of Lambeth and Southwark Housing Association between 2002 and 2010.

Caroline moved to London after graduating from the University of Wales Aberystwyth in 1994. She worked in local government and the health service for over a decade before becoming a full time politician. She lives in Southwark with her husband Paul and son Henry.

 


WISE16 does not endorse any political party or policies. Caroline was invited to take part in this article. We welcome other political parties and organisations to participate in a series of articles about the Rotherhithe Bridge. If you are interested, please get in touch.

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