New London bridge gets go-ahead from Westminster Council
London’s Garden Bridge has been granted planning permission by Westminster Council. Planned by architect Thomas Heatherwick and actress Joanna Lumley, the bridge will span the Thames River and had already been approved by Lambeth Council. The Mayor of London must give the final seal of approval and if permission is granted, construction will start late 2015.
According to reports, the development would create 270 jobs; bringing economic benefits to the area and open access to Temple. The bridge could also provide easier access to other parts of the city for disabled people and children.
Of 292 responses to the planning consultation, 279 were in favour of the plans. The mayor’s office has already pledged £30 million through Transport for London and another £30 million is due to come from the Treasury. Private donors will make up the remainder of the total cost of £175 million, with £110 million already pledged. It is thought the Garden Bridge Trust will ask for donations from the public next year.
Despite optimism that the bridge will get underway next year, some critics have raised concerns that the bridge may limit views of St Paul’s Cathedral and other landmarks. A report drafted for the committee considering planning permission said there would be ‘significant impact’ on views and that if the plans were for a commercial development the application would likely be refused.
Councilor Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, who chaired the committee, said, “This is something that is iconic and absolutely unique, and will be recognised right across the world. I understand the concerns about potential loss of views, but there is no doubting that this bridge will bring substantial and significant benefits to London.”
According to the Garden Bridge Trust website, the bridge is designed to be “somewhere to meet and spend time, with education and volunteering opportunities so people can get their hands dirty, helping with the upkeep of this new community garden. It will also provide a new link between cultural centres and tourist attractions on the north and south banks,” it says.
France to invest €1.8bn in Egypt’s infrastructure
France will invest a total of €1.8bn into Egypt’s infrastructure focusing specifically on upgrading the Cairo Metro, building a railway to Sudan, and developing water and energy schemes. Officials have called the investment a “major boost to bilateral cooperation”.
The Cairo Metro
Included in the financing is a concessional government loan of around €800mn to upgrade Line 1 of the Cairo Metro, introduced in the 1980s. The financing will pay for 55 trainsets for the line and is provided by the French engineering company, Alstom.
Line 6 is also due to be upgraded using further state-guaranteed loans worth up to €2bn. Bruno Le Maire said that this would be negotiated over the next six months. France and Egypt have worked in close cooperation ever since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became president in 2014, despite differences over human rights and strong criticism of Egypt by rights activists and some foreign states.
Nine more projects over the next half a decade
A further €1bn from France’s development agency, Agence Française de Développement (AFD), aims to cover a range of other projects over the next half a decade.
These projects include a railway line between Aswan, southern Egypt, and Wadi Halfa in Sudan, as well as several projects in the renewable energy and water purification industries. Bruno Le Maire, France’s Finance Minister, said Egypt was a “strategic partner and commercial dealings with it would be developed. France will substantially increase its direct exposure to Egypt, becoming the first counter-party for government to government loans,” he said.
According to Le Maire, the AFD will also €150mn to support the construction of a universal health insurance programme. French contractors such as Vinci and Bouygues have a long history of working on the Egyptian capital’s underground system.
Talking about the relationship between France And Egypt, Le Maire concluded: “France will substantially increase its direct exposure to Egypt, becoming the first counter-party for government to government loans”.