Theresa May’s Conservative UK government has given its backing to Thomas Heatherwick’s garden bridge while urging the project team to go out and raise the £52m required to deliver the attraction which will span the Thames in London.
As one of the greenest cities of its size in the world, this new piece of landscape will add to London’s rich and diverse horticultural heritage of heathlands, parks, squares, allotments and community gardens and support many indigenous river edge plant species.
UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s department has stated its backing for the controversial project which has divided opinion ever since it was initially proposed.
He confirmed that his department will continue to underwrite the £175m Thames crossing.
But ministers have refused a request from the Garden Bridge Trust to increase the level of underwriting “insurance” from £9m to £15m.
Pressure is now increasing on trustees to step up their fund-raising efforts urgently and keep the project on schedule. If the remaining £52m is identified Heatherwick’s project will be able to proceed later this year.
A Garden Bridge Trust spokesman said: “The Government has made it clear it wishes to continue to support the ‘exciting and innovative’ Garden Bridge and has agreed to extend a large part of its underwriting agreement. The trustees have agreed to explore any further underwriting required and are currently working with new private sector sources to build on the current support.”
Meanwhile, a Whitehall insider said: “The trust needs to do better at raising money. Government financial support cannot continue indefinitely. It is for the trust to raise the remaining funds on time to keep the project on schedule.”
Asked if the Government was saying the trust needed to pull its socks up when it came to raising the necessary funds, the insider said: “That’s right.”