Backing for Garden Bridge withdrawn

Nick Myall
28 Apr 2017

The on-going saga of the Garden Bridge in London looks to have come to a close as the mayor of London withdraws his support

Heatherwick Studio’s controversial plan to build a Garden Bridge across the Thames in London covered in trees and shrubs has lost the support of the Mayor of London. 

Following a meeting between the Garden Bridge Trust and London City Hall Sadiq Khan has written to the Trust saying he cannot provide the financial guarantee needed for planning permission to be granted. Khan said he was taking the decision because of a continuing shortfall in fundraising for the scheme.

According to the BBC, a review of the project said £37.4m had been spent and it would cost taxpayers £46.4m even if it was cancelled.

The news marks the end of a long-running battle to get the bridge built. The project was championed by Joanna Lumley, Boris Johnson and George Osborne and drew anger from critics who saw it as a symbolic indulgence.

Dame Margaret Hodge carried out the review into whether the Garden Bridge offered taxpayers value for money. Initially £60m of public money was pledged on planning for the bridge and Hodge concluded that the project should be scrapped.

Transport for London (TfL) pledged £30m, but £20m of that was to be a loan, and the rest was from central government.

In his letter the London mayor stated: "The conclusion I have reached is that Dame Margaret was right to conclude that the project progressing would expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk, both with regard to the bridge's construction and its maintenance.

"I have been clear that this should not be allowed to happen. Accordingly, the GLA (Greater London Authority) is unable to provide Mayoral guarantees for this project.

"I regret that the significant expenditure of public funds and effort from both public bodies and the Garden Bridge Trust has not led to a situation where I can provide the guarantees requested."

Mr Khan said the pledged funds the trust had detailed at the meeting on 20 April were lower than two years earlier "suggesting support for the project is not robust enough to generate the required funds."

Less than half the required private funds had so far been raised, he said.

The proposal for a garden suspended across the Thames, featuring 270 trees and thousands of other plants, was originally devised by Lumley and won support from Johnson and then-chancellor Osborne.

The Garden Bridge Trust has the option of seeking to amend the various planning permissions to permit work to begin without the public funding guarantees, but this would appear extremely unlikely.

Nick Myall

News editor


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