London’s Garden Bridge project officially abandoned

Garden Bridge planImage copyright
Heatherwick Studio

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A review of the project said more than £37m had already been spent

A £200m plan to build a bridge covered with trees across the River Thames in central London has officially been abandoned.

The Garden Bridge Trust has announced that it is winding up the project due to a lack of support from the mayor.

In April, Sadiq Khan said he would not provide the financial guarantee needed for planning permission.

A review of the project said £37.4m had been spent and it would cost taxpayers £46.4m if it was cancelled.

Since the mayor’s decision, the trust has been looking at other funding options, including speaking to the government. It said that all potential benefactors and trustees decided the project could not happen without the support of the mayor.

‘Sad day’

In a letter to Mr Khan, the trust’s chairman Lord Davies said: “We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality and that the mayor does not feel able to continue with the support he initially gave us.”

He said the trust had raised £70m of private money towards the project and had satisfied most of the planning permission conditions.

“The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place; a beautiful new green space in the heart of London, free to use and open to all, showcasing the best of British talent and innovation,” Lord Davies said.

“It is all the more disappointing because the trust was set up at the request of TfL (Transport for London), the organisation headed up by the mayor, to deliver the project. It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects.”

Commenting on the decision to drop the project, Mr Khan said it was his “duty to ensure taxpayers’ money was spent responsibly”.

“I have been clear since before I became mayor that no more London taxpayers’ money should be spent on this project and when I took office I gave the Garden Bridge Trust time to try and address the multiple serious issues with it.

“Londoners will, like me, be very angry that London taxpayers have now lost tens of millions of pounds – committed by the previous mayor on a project that has amounted to nothing.”

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Dame Margaret Hodge’s review said the Garden Bridge’s costs were spiralling out of control

A review into whether the Garden Bridge offered taxpayers value for money said the project should be scrapped.

TfL had pledged £30m, but £20m of that was to be a loan, and the rest was from central government.

Andrew Boff, Conservative London Assembly member, said Mr Khan had wasted £9m in taxpayers’ money as he could have scrapped the project in May last year.

Garden Bridge timeline:The idea of a “floating paradise” as a memorial to Princess Diana was suggested by Joanna Lumley as far back as 1998
The plan gathered momentum in 2012 and the following year then mayor Boris Johnson supported the scheme, pledging that Transport for London would help deliver it. It was also backed by then chancellor George Osborne
Planning permission was granted in 2014
The scheme has been beset by problems over its funding and lacked support of some local residents

In September 2016, Mr Khan ordered a review to find out if value for money was being achieved
In April, Dame Margaret Hodge concluded it would be better to ditch the project rather than risk uncertain costs
Following this report, Sadiq Khan withdrew his support

BBC London’s transport correspondent Tom Edwards said: “It was never really a transport project, it was a tourist attraction and crucially in 2012 no-one asked locals if they wanted it.”

Thomas Heatherwick, who designed the bridge, said: “Our cities need optimistic, amazing people (who supported the project) like this. And London needs new bridges and unexpected new public places.

“The Garden Bridge has not found its right moment, but I hope one day it will and that London continues to be open to ideas that make life here better.”

Ms Lumley has not commented on the decision.

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