London’s Garden Bridge project cancelled; City Hall calls it a “Boris vanity project”
London’s Garden Bridge project, which was due to be constructed between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges, has been cancelled after being labelled as a vanity project and a waste of taxpayer money.
Backers of the controversial plan conceded defeat and closed down the charity set up to build and run the crossing in the centre of the English capital.
The plans, which were supported by former London mayor Boris Johnson, were effectively killed off by his Labour successor, Sadiq Khan, in April when he refused to provide guarantees for the costly crossing.
Presented by its creators as an oasis of calm and greenery that would draw tourists and showcase British design and innovation, the Garden Bridge was denounced by critics as an extravagance that would bring little benefit to Londoners.
Johnson said it was “so sad” that Khan had “killed it out of spite”, while the Labour mayor said Londoners would be “very angry” that taxpayers had lost tens of millions of pounds on a project that has come to nothing.
A City Hall source claimed the bridge was a “Boris vanity project” and said Khan had been “crystal clear since before he took office that he was not prepared to commit new taxpayers’ money to the project”.
The Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) said it was a “sad day” for London because the failure to build the bridge sent a “message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects”.
Originally estimated at £60m, the project was likely to end up costing over £200m, according to an independent review commissioned by Khan that found the business case for the bridge was poor and the funding uncertain.
Khan said in April he would not provide support for the plans because it would leave taxpayers in the capital at risk of higher bills. More than £37m of public money had already been spent on the project.
Johnson, who backed plans for the bridge in 2013, said: “So sad Sadiq Khan has killed garden bridge and wasted so much time and money. Labour has no vision for London and no ambition.”
“The garden bridge was a beautiful project and could have been easily financed,” he added. “The Labour mayor claimed to support it, but killed it out of spite because it was not initiated in his period of office.
“I would also like to thank especially the donors and trustees who persevered for so long. They took seriously the Labour mayor’s protestations that he supported the project.
“Indeed, TfL has spent £10m in the last year on the strength of those assurances. The only crumb of comfort is that good plans have now been developed and can be readily revived.”
Khan said: “It’s my duty to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly. Following the very serious issues highlighted in Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review of the bridge, including a funding gap of over £70m, potentially unlimited costs to London taxpayers to fund the bridge in the future, systemic failings in the procurement process and decisions not being driven by value for money, I could not permit a single penny more of London taxpayers’ money being spent on it.
“I have been clear since before I became mayor that no more London taxpayers’ money should be spent on this project and when I took office I gave the Garden Bridge Trust time to try and address the multiple serious issues with it.
“Londoners will, like me, be very angry that London taxpayers have now lost tens of millions of pounds committed by the previous mayor on a project that has amounted to nothing.”
Chairman Lord Mervyn Davies said: “We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality and that the mayor does not feel able to continue with the support he initially gave us.
“We had made great progress, obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m of private money towards the project.”