The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
has withdrawn his support for the Garden Bridge project saying he would not
provide the financial guarantees needed for construction to begin, making the
proposed bridge unlikely to proceed.In a letter to the Garden Bridge
Trust, the charity leading the project, Khan said he was taking the decision
because of a continuing shortfall in fundraising for the scheme and a
lack of the necessary land use agreements despite three years of talks.
The news effectively marks the
end to a long-running saga of the proposed bridge, which would connect Temple
and the South Bank and was championed by Joanna Lumley, former mayor Boris
Johnson and former chancellor George Osborne.
While Khan does not have the
power to scrap the project, his withdrawal of the public guarantees leaves an
impossibly large funding gap for the idea.
With planning permission expiring
in December for the Thomas Heatherwick-designed bridge, the timetable appeared
impossible, Khan concluded in his letter.
“The funding gap is now at over
£70m and it appears unlikely that the trust will succeed in raising the private
funds required for the project,” he wrote. “I am simply not prepared to risk a
situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant
additional amounts to ensure the project is completed.”
Khan made his decision after
commissioning Labour MP Margaret Hodge to investigate whether the bridge
proposals still represented value for public money. Her damning report,
published earlier this month, recommended it be scrapped to avoid wasting any
more public funds, with costs spiraling to more than £200m from an original
£60m estimate and £37.4m of public funds already spent pre-construction.
The trust now has the option of
seeking to amend the various planning permissions to permit work to begin
without the public funding guarantees.