Garden Bridge hangs in the balance after London mayor Sadiq Khan pulls plug on his support

Caitlin Morrison
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Sadiq Khan Begins His Term As Mayor Of London
Sadiq says NO to the Garden Bridge (Source: Getty)

London mayor Sadiq Khan today announced he was pulling his support for the Garden Bridge project.

Khan wrote to the chair of the Garden Bridge Trust and said he will not be providing mayoral guarantees for the proposed construction.

Khan said he had taken into account the recent report by Dame Margaret Hodge, which highlighted escalating costs, a weak business case and "little regard" for value for money, and advised that the project should be scrapped.

Hodge's report followed an analysis conducted by the Treasury, which came to a similar conclusion that "the overall case for the project is weaker today than it was in 2014".

Financial risk

The mayor said the continuation of the project will "expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk, both with regard to the bridge’s construction and its operation and maintenance".

"Under the previous mayor, a considerable amount of London taxpayers’ money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge," Khan said.

"I have always been clear that not a penny more of taxpayers' money should be allocated to the project.

"Having assessed all the information available to me including the findings of Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review, my view is that providing mayoral guarantees will expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk."

Spiralling costs

He added: "With planning permission due to expire this year, many outstanding issues remain, including spiralling construction costs and doubts around funding the maintenance of the bridge.

"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."

Didn't Khan originally back the Garden Bridge?

The mayor did give his backing to the project after he was elected last year, but his was always a very qualified support - unsurprising given that he referred to it as another one of "Boris Johnson's white elephant projects" during the mayoral campaign.

Khan issued the following list of criteria that the Bridge would have to meet:

  • The Bridge to be closed for fewer days each year for private fundraising events – the current plans are for 12 closures a year.
  • The Bridge to be closed for fewer hours each time it has to close for fundraising events, so that the Bridge can still be used in the morning and evenings – the current plans are for it to be closed from midnight to midnight.
  • A guarantee that children at local schools on either side of the river will get to visit the Garden Bridge and be involved in planting and maintenance – with a rolling programme of events for local school children.
  • The Garden Bridge Trust to build a strong working relationship with all of London’s parks, so that seeds and plants grown on the Garden Bridge can then be replanted in parks across the capital – ensuring it has a positive benefit for all Londoners.

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