Pre-scoping on London’s Garden Bridge

31st January 2016


Brendan Cuddihy, environmental consultant at Arup reports on an innovative consultation process used for London's garden bridge.

London's garden bridge is a unique project. The proposed 366-metre bridge will not only improve links between the north and south of the River Thames, but it aims to create a public garden, which will be home to an abundance of plant and tree species.

As well as undertaking the engineering design for the bridge, Arup performed a number of services to support the planning application including the environmental, health and equalities impact assessments. This article focuses on the EIA, specifically looking at the work we did leading up to receiving scoping opinions from the local authorities. As with the bridge itself, the approach we took was innovative, unique and challenging.

Like all consultants when faced with a new project, the first question we asked ourselves was “what do we need to cover in the EIA?” The garden bridge sits in a location that is sensitive for a number of reasons – there are protected views, valuable heritage assets and a big river with its ecological and hydrological complexities. But on the other hand, the pedestrian bridge would be designed to sit sensitively in this environment.

We were also keen to deliver a concise, proportionate, cost-effective environmental statement (ES), and avoid producing a lengthy assessment that said very little.

As a means of better tailoring the process and rather than taking the usual line of considering what topics should be scoped out, we asked the specialists to convince us why their topic should be scoped in. We provided the specialists with scheme information and then held short bespoke meetings with each of them. This really challenged the specialists to enter a very project-specific, site-specific mindset from the start and ended any assumptions that their topic was scoped in and going through the usual motions.

Once we had come to our own internal view of the scope of the EIA, we started direct engagement with stakeholders. In a typical scoping process there is little direct contact with stakeholders, as it is the local planning authority that handles this. Instead, we sought to take the initiative and have productive dialogue with stakeholders prior to going through the formal scoping process. We prepared and issued ‘pre-scoping papers’ tailored for specific stakeholders or groups of stakeholders with common interests. These papers set out our proposed scope and methodology and asked questions of the stakeholders including, most pertinently, whether they agreed with the scope. Our follow up correspondence, and in some cases meetings, allowed us to constructively resolve any differences of opinion with them.

Having established a good understanding of the views of the stakeholders, we then proceeded to request formal scoping opinions. We had to request scoping opinions from Westminster City Council and the London Borough of Lambeth as the project spanned two local authority areas. We prepared a scoping report which brought together and updated the earlier pre-scoping papers and submitted this to the authorities. Approximately five weeks later we received scoping opinions from both councils.

Looking back over the process what did we learn? The challenge to the specialists regarding their scope was very valuable in forcing them to adopt a very project-specific mindset from the outset and consequently focussing on the environmental aspects that are really important to the project context. We now do this as standard on our EIA projects.

Taking the initiative to engage early with the stakeholders also yielded benefits. As well as leading to constructive dialogue that continued through the project, it allowed us to resolve a number of design and EIA issues at an early stage. The result of this was that we had very few surprises when the scoping opinions were received, further streamlining the process. However, in some cases we faced some resistance from stakeholders to the idea of scoping topics out of the EIA. In some cases, which was perhaps to be expected considering the number of stakeholders involved, we were requested to reinstate certain topics in order to deal with the potential perceptions of stakeholders and as a result we were not quite as successful at reducing the scope of the EIA as originally envisioned.

With some other stakeholders we faced different issues. In today’s resource-constrained environment, some stakeholders simply cannot support this level of engagement.

Would we do this again? I certainly think this approach, if executed successfully, adds value for high profile and complex projects. Furthermore, while the approach above does involve some additional resource, once it is counter balanced against the typical work required for the scoping and assessment stages of a project and the potential savings to be had from scoping out more EIA topics, the benefits of this approach certainly outweigh the negatives.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

IEMA reviews political party manifestos

Ahead of the UK general election next month, IEMA has analysed the Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Green Party manifestos in relation to the sustainability agenda.

19th June 2024

Read more

Nine in 10 UK adults do not fully trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments or follow the science all the time, a new survey has uncovered.

19th June 2024

Read more

Just one in 20 workers aged 27 and under have the skills needed to help drive the net-zero transition, compared with one in eight of the workforce as a whole, new LinkedIn data suggests.

18th June 2024

Read more

Consumers are flexing their purchasing power in support of more sustainable products and services. Dr Andrew Coburn, CEO of sustainability intelligence and analytics firm, Risilience, considers the risk of greenwashing and sets out three key steps businesses can take to avoid the pitfalls and meet the opportunities of changing consumer demand.

18th June 2024

Read more

With a Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures in the pipeline, Beth Knight talks to Chris Seekings about increased recognition of social sustainability

6th June 2024

Read more

Disinformation about the impossibility of averting the climate crisis is part of an alarming turn in denialist tactics, writes David Burrows

6th June 2024

Read more

While biodiversity net gain is now making inroads, marine net gain is still in its infancy. Ed Walker explores the balance between enabling development and safeguarding our marine environment

6th June 2024

Read more

David Symons, FIEMA, director of sustainability at WSP, and IEMA’s Lesley Wilson, tell Chris Seekings why a growing number of organisations are turning to nature-based solutions to meet their climate goals

6th June 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close