London mayor Sadiq Khan today signalled the likely death of Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge by refusing to agree his predecessor Boris Johnson’s long-promised guarantee for its operation and maintenance costs
The financial guarantee, which would underwrite the estimated $4m annual cost of the bridge’s upkeep, must be in place before construction commences, as it is a requirement of the Port of London Authority (PLA) and a condition of the planning approvals from both Lambeth and Westminster councils.
But following a critical financial report on the $250m project’s procurement and value-for-money, Khan today wrote to the chair of the Garden Bridge Trust, Mervyn Davies to say that continuation of the scheme would expose the London taxpayer to additional and unacceptable financial risk.
Related story: Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge funding cut
Khan said: “Under the previous mayor, a considerable amount of London taxpayers’ money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge. I have always been clear that not a penny more of taxpayers’ money should be allocated to the project.
“My view is that providing mayoral guarantees will expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk
“Having assessed all the information available to me including the findings of Margaret Hodge’s independent review, my view is that providing mayoral guarantees will expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk.
“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 original idea for a bridge with trees and plants spanning the River Thames came from actress Joanna Lumley – famous for her role as Patsy Stone in the sit-com “Absolutely Fabulous”.
She attacked Khan’s move saying the decision to remove financial backing was “absolutely shattering, devastating”.
“The negativity troubles me in my heart. I hope we’re not turning into the sort of country that instantly says no before it considers saying yes,” Lumley said.
“A nation that just pulls the shutters down. The silent majority still love the bridge, but of course they were not asked what they think.”