London's £200m Garden Bridge has been ditched after losing the mayor's backing, the charity leading the project confirmed today.
The Garden Bridge Trust had been planning a foliage-strewn bridge across the Thames from Temple to the South Bank, but said today it will wind up the project after it informed the mayor of London, Transport for London and the Department for Transport of the decision.
A report into the project from April said it had already cost the taxpayer £37.4m, and the agreement to underwrite cancellation costs by the government could take the bill for taxpayers up to £46.4m.
Chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, Lord Mervyn Davies, said:
It is with great regret that trustees have concluded that without mayoral support the project cannot be delivered.
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.
We had made great progress obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m of private money towards 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.
The charity said the controversial project will now be formally closed, including the termination of contracts and concluding donor funding agreements.
In April, London mayor Sadiq Khan pulled the plug on support for the project after a report by the former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Dame Margaret Hodge, said it was better value to write off the money already spent rather than continue with the project.
Khan said he had taken into account the recent report by Hodge, which highlighted escalating costs, a weak business case and "little regard" for value for money, and advised that the project should be scrapped.
Continuing with the project, would, he said, "expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk". Hodge said the bridge was likely to cost more than £200m: £37.4m of public funds had already been spent without any building work taking place.
Some £60m of the £200m needed had been pledged through public funding, but only £69m of private funding had been promised, leaving a gap of £70m, according to Hodge.
Today, Khan said:
Following the very serious issues highlighted in Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review of the bridge - including a funding gap of over £70m, potentially unlimited costs to London taxpayers to fund the bridge in the future, systemic failings in the procurement process and decisions not being driven by value for money - I could not permit a single penny more of London taxpayers’ money being spent on 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.
Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley said: "It's a relief that the Trust have finally decided to stop flogging this dead horse.
"Mayor Khan's decision to stop any further public money being wasted, once he saw the resounding evidence that this was a poor project, was very welcome. However, it is a scandal that the cheerleaders for the bridge were allowed to waste so much public money by his predecessor. Boris Johnson drove forward this vanity project during his mayoralty, and the lion's share of the blame for this whole debacle must fall at his feet."
Conservative London Assembly member Andrew Boff, however, said the mayor had "all the information necessary to cancel this project in May last year", and around £9m of public funds had been committed since the mayoral election
Boff added: "His predecessor, wrongly in my view, clearly supported the plans for the Garden Bridge. It’s clear that Sadiq Khan’s indecision has wasted millions more pounds of taxpayers’ money in the confusion."