LONDON — Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has effectively ended London’s controversial “Garden Bridge” project, citing rising costs and the real risk it could be left half-built.
Khan wrote to The Garden Bridge Trust on Friday to say that City Hall was “just not ready” to take the risk of allowing mayoral guarantees to go through with the project.
The decision follows a damning review by former Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge last month, which warned taxpayers would face significant additional costs for the project.
Hodge also warned that if the Trust cannot secure construction financing, the project could remain incomplete.
Planning permission for the £200m project, estimated to be the world’s most expensive public footbridge, was due to expire later this year as the Trust still had tens of millions of pounds of promised private financing to secure for construction.
Former Mayor Boris Johnson and the central government had committed £60m of public money to the project, with the remainder set to come from private sources.
A National Audit Office report last year warned that around £20million of that would be lost if the project were scrapped.
“Under the previous mayor, a significant amount of London tax money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge. I’ve always made it clear that not a penny more tax money should flow into the project,” said Khan on Friday.
“Having evaluated all the information available to me, including the results of Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review, I believe that the provision of guarantees by the Mayor will expose London taxpayers to too much additional financial risk.”
“With planning permission expiring this year, many unanswered questions remain, including rising construction costs and doubts about funding for the bridge’s maintenance.
“The funding gap is now in excess of £70m and it seems unlikely that the Trust will be able to raise the private funds required for the project. I’m just not willing to risk a situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant additional amounts to ensure the project gets completed.”
The project, originally pushed by actress and activist Joanna Lumley, was considered by City Hall to be a “vanity project” by former mayor Boris Johnson, whom Lumley had known since childhood.
City Hall sources say Khan and those around him have long opposed the project, even before Hodge’s review.
Johnson’s opponents approached him today for approving the project.
“This is another nail in the coffin of Boris Johnson’s self-serving legacy, at an enormous cost to the taxpayer,” said former Liberal Democrat MP for Bermondsey Simon Hughes.
“We applaud the mayor’s decision, but remain upset that City Hall residents, past and present, have already wasted so much time and money on this unnecessary vanity project.”
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