Mayor of London Sadiq Khan gives backing to Garden Bridge but adds key demands
Sadiq Khan has given his backing to the Garden Bridge, but with some heavy caveats.
Khan has demanded that the bridge is made more accessible for Londoners in return for his support.
The mayor described the Garden Bridge as a project that could rival New York’s High Line, a public park that was built on a disused railway line thirty feet above street level in Manhattan, but warned that the Bridge "must be a genuinely public and open space for all Londoners, rather than a closed and private space".
It's a big deal that Khan's given his backing, given that in September last year he said it was another of "Boris Johnson's white elephant projects", like the Cable Car.
In particular, Khan has demanded of the Garden Bridge Trust:
- 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.
Khan said: "The early days of this project clearly fell short of our expectations on transparency. I am determined to run the most open and transparent administration London has ever seen.
"I will let the sunshine in, which is why we are today publishing the previously undisclosed full business plan for the Garden Bridge alongside a list of its funders."
The bridge, initially thought of by Joanna Lumley and Thomas Heathwick, aims to link Southwark with Temple.
The Garden Bridge Trust welcomed the news that Khan was backing the Bridge. It said: "We share the mayor’s desire to have the bridge open to everyone for as long as possible. Balancing this and the need to raise the required private funds to operate the bridge is important."
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The news didn't go down well with Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats at the London Assembly.
She said: "Today’s decision is highly disappointing. Instead of tinkering with minor changes from the Garden Bridge Trust the mayor should be seeking to recoup every penny of Transport for London funding that has been allocated to this highly controversial project.
"The mayor should also be refusing to underwrite the annual maintenance costs of this project.
"There are numerous transport projects in London that desperately need public funding and are a far higher priority than this vanity project from the previous Mayor."