Garden Bridge: Sadiq Khan scraps funding for controversial London project first touted by Boris Johnson

Greg Wilford
A mock-up of the proposed Thames Garden Bridge: Thomas Heatherwick

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has withdrawn financial support for Boris Johnson’s controversial Garden Bridge project amid fears taxpayers would have to plug a £70m funding gap.

Mr Khan said he would not “expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk” after estimated costs for the bridge spiralled from £60m to more than £200m.

Already, £37m of public money has been spent to support the proposals for the bridge, which was set to feature hundreds of trees and shrubs and cross the Thames from the South Bank to Temple.

Mr Khan ordered a review that called for the scheme to be scrapped this month and revealed that cancelling it could bring the total cost to taxpayers to £46.4m.

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who oversaw the review, said it was “difficult to justify further public investment” after The Garden Bridge Trust lost major donors before any building work began.

The Trust had planned to begin construction before funding was in place – a move the Mayor said could result in “a partially built bridge which would either require completion or demolition”.

Mr Khan announced he wouldn’t provide the the Trust with financial guarantees required for planning permission to be granted on Friday.

They will have to meet future costs through commercial and fundraising activities if they are to complete the project.

In a letter to the Trust published on Twitter, Mr Khan said: “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.

“The funding gap is now at over £70m and it appears unlikely that the trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project. 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.”

Mr Johnson and George Osborne had championed the project, which was initially devised by Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley.

When Mr Johnson began his second term in City Hall the plans began to take shape.

Ms Lumley has previously said she has been friends with Mr Johnson “since he was four”.

She said this made him “largely quite amenable” to supporting the project.

The damning report into the scheme said the procurement process in which Heatherwick Studio won the contract to build the bridge was “not open, fair or competitive”.

It also highlighted escalating costs, and concluded that the business case for the bridge was flimsy.

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