London Garden Bridge project is officially dead, say organisers

Sadiq Khan accused of withdrawing previous support for the idea, forcing supporters to reluctantly scrap plans

Benjamin Kentish
Monday 14 August 2017 11:54 BST
Digital rendering of the now axed project, which has cost tens of millions of public money
Digital rendering of the now axed project, which has cost tens of millions of public money (Arup)

The project to build the Garden Bridge spanning the river Thames in London has officially been shut down, after more than £37m was invested in the scheme before building work had even begun.

The Garden Bridge Trust, the charity that was overseeing the £200m project, said it was scrapping the plans after London Mayor Sadiq Khan refused to sign off the costs of maintaining the bridge.

In April, Mr Khan wrote to the Trust's Chairman, Lord Mervyn Davies, saying such a guarantee would "expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk. I am simply not prepared to risk a situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant additional amounts to ensure the project is completed," he said.

Securing funding for annual maintenance costs was a pre-condition of the bridge receiving planning permission from the two London boroughs - Lambeth and Westminster - that the bridge would connect.

Announcing the decision to "wind up" the project, the trust said: "The Trust has had no choice but to take this decision because of lack of support for the project going forward from the Mayor.

"On 28 April, Sadiq Khan wrote to Lord Mervyn Davies, Chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, stating that he was not prepared to sign the guarantee for the annual maintenance costs of the Bridge, a condition of planning consent, despite previous assurances given about his support for the project.

"Since then the Garden Bridge Trust has examined in detail all options available to it. This included discussions with a potential benefactor who was keen to provide the required guarantee. It also had further discussions with the Government.

"Unfortunately, the benefactor concerned and the Trustees have all concluded that they cannot proceed with what was always designed to be a public project in the heart of the capital without the support of the Mayor of London."

Mr Khan had initially given his support to the project but demanded the trust reduce the number of days the bridge would be rented out for private functions.

The project's supporters said the revenue generated by the 12 days a year it was to be rented out would be crucial to covering maintenance costs - estimated to be up to £3m a year. But Mr Khan insisted the bridge should be shut for less time.

Lord Davies said he was "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".

The idea for a Garden Bridge was first put forward in 2013 during a conversation between actress Joanna Lumley and then mayor Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson supported the project but had not signed off the costs before leaving office last May.

While critics had said a road bridge was a greater priority and that the Garden Bridge would be excessively costs to the taxpayer, supporters said the Garden Bridge would offer Londoners and tourists stunning views and serve as a new communal green space for people to enjoy.

An agreement that the Government would cover the cancellation costs if the project was halted – a further £9m – means the a total of more than £46m of public funds will have been spent on the bridge.

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