Visitors to the Garden Bridge in London are tracked by their cell phone signals and monitored by staff authorized to capture people’s names and addresses and to confiscate and destroy prohibited items, including kites and musical instruments, in accordance with a planning document.
The lengthy document (pdf) submitted as part of the bridge’s planning process, which is funded with at least £ 40m in public money, said the trust behind the program hoped to “maximize the opportunities that arise the status of the bridge gives rise to the bridge as private land ”by imposing rules for“ establishing expectations of behavior and behavior ”.
In this case, the progress of the users throughout the structure is tracked through monitors that detect the Wi-Fi signals from their phones, which display the Mac address of the device or the unique identification code. The Garden Bridge Trust says they don’t store any of this data and only tracks phones to count numbers and prevent overcrowding.
Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the London Assembly who opposed the Thomas Heatherwick project, feared that the bridge was following “a worrying trend of privatizing public spaces where the rights of private owners are those of ordinary people” .
The Trust hopes to start work on the £ 175 million bridge in the New Year. It is planned to run from the temple on the north side of the Thames to the south bank and have 270 trees and thousands of other plants.
The program was designed by Joanna Lumley and is largely financed from private sources, with £ 30 million provided by George Osborne in funding and £ 10 million from Transport for London (TfL) after a previously cut contribution of £ 30 million had been. It has the strong backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The bridge rules, 30 of which are listed, prohibit any exercise other than jogging, playing a musical instrument, attending a “gathering of any kind,” making a speech or address, throwing ashes, releasing a balloon, and flying a kite.
They would be enforced by hosts qualified under the government’s Community Safety Accreditation Scheme (CSAS). Under this procedure, the police can give civilians involved in crowd control powers to impose fines for crimes such as garbage and require suspected criminals to provide their name and address.
The planning document confirms that visitor hosts can issue firm criminal charges and order anyone who violates the bridge rules to provide their personal data. If the violation is on a prohibited item, the host may “seize and dispose of that property in accordance with CSAS enforcement powers,” it says.
An “enhanced” CCTV system would monitor visitors for violations of the law or prohibited activity, the document adds.
The Bridge Trust said the proposed planning conditions would not result in the structure becoming an overly controlled and regulated place and insisted that the hosts “are not police officers”. It was said that while visitor hosts could theoretically seize prohibited items, in practice they would only do so with things like alcohol.
Michael Ball of Thames Central Open Spaces, who opposes the project, said the trust’s stance appears to be, “It’s their space and they will guard it. The essence of open space is that it has a freedom. You can walk around and find out what you are doing. It’s unstructured. Many gardens have a bit of structure, but to be so rigidly structured is bizarre. It doesn’t sound like an experience anyone will enjoy. “
The planning document emphasizes that the security measures are primarily aimed at crime and anti-social behavior and it is expected that staff will use their CSAS powers to respond to any protests or demonstrations that are prohibited on the bridge.
The amount of public funding earmarked for the bridge almost led to the plans being derailed. In September, Lambeth withdrew from the negotiations in protest at TfL’s proposed £ 30 million contribution. The decision was reversed this week after the council said the sum had been cut to £ 10 million. However, it was later found that the remaining £ 20m would be in the form of a public loan that could be repaid over 50 years.
The Ramblers’ inner London office has also spoken out against the program. Phil Marson, the group’s chairman, said he was concerned about enforcement powers. “As a private person, I don’t understand how representatives of private organizations can get these police-like powers in a public space that is paid for with public funds,” he said. The Garden Bridge Trust said the planning documents listed theoretical peak performances that were extremely unlikely to be used. For example, pocket searches or “wand” scans of people’s clothing could be used, but only if, for example, a VIP was visiting the bridge.
A spokeswoman said the bridge was intended as a “private place as a public space”. She said, “We want people to use the bridge safely and have a good experience crossing it. We don’t want to restrict people or spoil their fun. ”