The Garden Bridge Trust has asked the government to extend a financial guarantee for the £175 million project
An agreement by the Department for Transport (DfT) to underwrite the Thomas Heatherwick-designed scheme to the tune of £15 million is due to run out in September and last week, trust chairman Lord Davies of Abersoch wrote to transport secretary Chris Grayling asking for a year’s extension.
In his letter, he said: ’This country is known and applauded for its creativity, innovation and ability to deliver. The Garden Bridge demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit of the capital and the country.
’With continued support from you and the government the Garden Bridge will be a very tangible and very visible example of what we in the UK stand for and can deliver.’
The move comes just days after the business plan for the contentious 367m-long bridge was branded ’fundamentally flawed’ by Dan Anderson of tourist attraction consultant Fourth Street (see AJ 22.07.16).
Architect and procurement campaigner Walter Menteth told the AJ: ‘It is now inarguably an absolute imperative that the vainglorious pursuit of the Garden Bridge project should be halted and subject to an independent public inquiry. This dreadful saga only goes to highlight the importance of upholding the most basic processes and procedures that seem to have been so abjectly usurped in this case.’
But a statement released on behalf of the trust said: ’The trust has made great progress on the Garden Bridge this year with the discharge of planning conditions, ground investigation work taking place, agreeing logistics and a construction programme, reaching agreements with key stakeholders involved in work on the Thames, as well as strong progress on private fundraising.
’There have, however, been some hold-ups to the project and we will not start construction until we have concluded land deals on both sides of the river, and complete all planning matters. We aim to have completed this by the autumn.’
The £15 million is an insurance against the project being brought to a halt, and the trust said it hoped to meet Grayling to discuss the matter.
A DfT spokesman confirmed it had received the letter and that ministers were considering the request.
Separately, RIBA president Jane Duncan has written to London mayor Sadiq Khan reiterating the RIBA’s stance on the project (see RIBA council calls for Garden Bridge procurement to be investigated).
She said: ’Ongoing journalistic and agency investigations into the bridge’s procurement continue to raise serious questions that the RIBA believes need to be answered.
‘Submitting a bid for a major project costs businesses in time, resources and money, and it is crucial that procurement is undertaken in a clear and open manner.’
She has requested to meet Khan and discuss the case, as well as best practice in procurement more broadly.
Will Jennings, anti-Garden Bridge campaigner
I am confused why Lord Davies thinks that his development ’demonstrates the entrepreneurial spirit of the capital and the country’. An actor with a childish ambition who was introduced to a designer renowned for their networking abilities via an entitled connection then got her idea into the mayor’s office due to an old family friendship before a funding plan using vast amounts of public money alongside rich businesses looking for cheap advertising, tax reduction and image greenwashing was created. There are many characters in this tragedy of a story, but none who I could ever imagine being called an ’entrepreneur’!
Lord Davies states that the Garden Bridge, if built, would be ’a very visible example’ of what the UK stands for. I don’t disagree. Sadly, it appears that these characteristics it stands for include ecological damage, abuse of heritage, lack of communication with citizens, privatisation of public space, cronyism, the failure to respect democratic process and the many of the country paying for a luxury only a few entitled people want.