When Joanna Lumley stood on the roof of the National Theatre four years ago and declared her unwavering support for The Garden Bridge, did she have any idea what a bloody great hoo-hah she was unleashing on the city?
London’s most controversial thoroughfare has faced multiple delays, doubts over planning and funding, and criticism from a whole host of Londoners over the huge chunk of taxpayers’ money needed to get the leafy crossing built.
Today, it seems it’s the final nail in the coffin for the bridge, also once supported by Boris Johnson and George Osborne, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan has formally withdrawn his support for the project. In a letter to the chair of the Garden Bridge Trust, Sadiq said he will not be providing Mayoral guarantees for the bridge.
Sadiq’s bombshell comes after a review into the bridge by Labour MP Margaret Hodge, which basically concluded that the whole thing should be scrapped and no more public funds allocated to the project, even though a whopping great £37.4m million has already been spent. Sadiq said he consulted this report before penning the letter, after assessing all information available about the project. In his letter, he outlined ways the project could put London taxpayers at risk, including fears that costs could increase, that there was a risk of the bridge only partially being built and doubts over funds being available to meet maintenance costs in the future. Just a few issues, then.
Sadiq 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. Having assessed all the information available to me, including the findings of Dame 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 funding gap is now at over £70 million and it appears unlikely that the Trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project. 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.’
It is possible that the trust could seek to amend planning permission to get the work going without guarantees of public funding, but right now that looks pretty unlikely. So long and farewell Garden Bridge, we wish we could say it’s been fun.
In other news, TfL is rolling out the ‘please offer me a seat’ badges.