Tuesday 15 October 2019 12:58 pm

Garden Bridge Trust awarded £21m in contracts 'prematurely' and 'recklessly'

Backers of the abandoned Garden Bridge awarded £21m in construction contracts before getting key land and building permits, according to a new report.

The report, from the London Assembly’s Garden Bridge Working Group, details the “reckless” spending of the Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) and Transport for London (TfL) on the failed £53m project.

Read more: TfL did not see controversial Garden Bridge construction contract

The bridge, which was commissioned by former mayor of London Boris Johnson, was cancelled by current mayor Sadiq Khan in 2017 before construction began.

It was revealed in February that £43m of the £53m of the money spent on the project was taxpayer money.

The new report found GBT awarded £21.3m to French construction company Bouygues and Italian design company Cimolai as a part of a joint venture between the two firms.

However, the contracts were awarded before getting land rights on either side of the Thames and without getting planning permission for the bridge.

Minutes from a GBT meeting reveal one trustee said it was “reckless” and “premature” to award the contracts as “there were still 22 hurdles to overcome … [and] that these were significant hurdles that could potentially delay the programme”.

Tom Copley, Labour chairman of the assembly’s garden bridge working group, said: “There were consistent failures to adequately, effectively and transparently deal with the escalating risks of the project.”

Fears about the project were “downplayed” to satisfy Johnson, according to the report.

It says his office put “significant pressure” on TfL in an attempt to speed up delivery of the project.

Caroline Pidgeon, deputy head of the London Assembly planning committee, said: “Never again can we have an infrastructure project with such poor governance arrangements that it is allowed to spend taxpayers’ money in such a reckless way.

Read more: Charity watchdog accused of lack of action against £535m Garden Bridge

“Incredibly, no one seems to accept any responsibility – from the former mayor of London through to individual trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust.”

Paul Scully MP, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, blamed Sadiq Khan for the bridge not going ahead.

“Sadiq Khan’s flip flopping on this scheme led to its demise – leaving Londoners paying the price,” he said.

“Labour should stop playing politics and start focusing on making London’s streets safer.”