Monday 16 March 2020 6:03 pm

Transport department refuses to release Garden Bridge report

The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it will not release a report into the failed £48m Garden Bridge so it can protect a trust that no longer operates.

The Garden Bridge Trust was set up to manage the disastrous project, which was championed by Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London and former chancellor George Osborne.

However, the trust was liquidated last year after the bridge was scrapped by Sadiq Khan in 2017 because of a £70m funding gap.

Despite that, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Architects’ Journal to see an internal report on the project was rejected by the DfT on the grounds that it was protecting the interests of the liquidated Garden Bridge Trust.

The 2016 paper reportedly contains internal cost estimates of the project and a potential warning to not put more taxpayer dollars into the bridge.

A further £5m of funding from the transport department was ploughed into the project, after the report was drawn up.

It was also revealed in October that the trust awarded £21m in construction contracts before getting key land and building permits.

Len Duvall, chair of the London Assembly’s oversight committee, said the DfT’s suppression of the report was “completely out of order.

“I can’t think of a worst example of public waste than the Garden Bridge project,” he said.

“The government should hang its head in shame.”

Deputy chair of the committee Caroline Pidgeon said there had been “repeated secrecy” around the project from day-one.

She added: “After so many years of poor decision making it seems that instead of wanting to learn lessons from this doomed project the Department for Transport just want to defend the indefensible.”

When asked about the suppression of the report, a DfT spokesperson said: “FOI requests are handled by the Department on the presumption of disclosure, unless an appropriate exemption under the FOI Act applies.

“In this case the information was exempted to avoid prejudicing the commercial interests of the Garden Bridge Trust.”