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Garden Bridge finally sunk as Trust closes


The Garden Bridge Trust is being wound up after a last-ditch appeal to London’s mayor fell on deaf ears

In a statement from the Trust this morning, it blamed the decision on the ‘lack of support’ from mayor Sadiq Khan and said all Garden Bridge contracts including donor funding agreement would now be terminated.

Chairman of the Trust Mervyn Davies called it a ‘sad day for London’ and hit out at the mayor in a lengthy letter, saying he had refused to meet him over a 15-month period and had overseen around £9 million of cost on the bridge by giving the project his backing from his election last May to April of this year.

Khan pulled the plug on the £200 million Heatherwick-designed scheme at the end of April after a damning report on the scheme’s procurement and value-for-money by Margaret Hodge MP was published by City Hall.

Davies said: ‘It is with great regret that trustees have concluded that without mayoral support the project cannot be delivered. 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 £70 million of private money towards the project.

‘The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place; a beautiful new green space in the heart of London, free to use and open to all, showcasing the best of British talent and innovation. It is all the more disappointing because the Trust was set up at the request of TfL, the organisation headed up by the Mayor, to deliver the project. It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects.

‘I would like to thank our donors and supporters, who gave us unstinting help and support along the way.’

Designer Thomas Heatherwick, the founder of Heatherwick Studio, added: ’Everyone on the Trust board gave their time and hearts unpaid to give London a free new garden and important public artery, and so many donors gave money without looking for anything back other than doing something good for London.

’The Garden Bridge has not found its right moment, but I hope one day it will’

Our cities need optimistic amazing people like this. And London needs new bridges and unexpected new public places.

He concluded: ’The Garden Bridge has not found its right moment, but I hope one day it will and that London continues to be open to ideas that make life here better.’

Recent letters between Davies, and Khan, obtained by the AJ under FOI, show Davies calling on the mayor to offer the project his ‘whole-hearted support’ albeit without the financial guarantee covering operations and maintenance costs which Khan withdrew in April.

In a letter sent to the mayor on 19 June, Davies said that a ‘philanthropic founding of appropriate standing’ had expressed interest in stepping in to provide this guarantee plus additional funding but had decided ‘not to proceed after speaking with you’.

Davies continued: ‘We have, however, a proposal for an alternative guarantor, which we believe will be acceptable to all parties. Clearly however, the trustees cannot build such a high-profile project in the City, intended wholly for the public good, if it does not have the whole-hearted support of you as our mayor.’

Davies said such ‘critical’ support would involve the mayor encouraging public bodies to re-commit to the Garden Bridge adding that he understood that recent events such as the Grenfell Tower fire would take priority for Khan.

In his response, sent almost a month later on 13 July, Khan apologised for not replying sooner but confirmed he had been focusing on the consequences of the ‘terrible events at Grenfell Tower and Finsbury Park’.

He went on to say it was the Trust’s responsibility to secure financial support and ensure that no further financial support was required from the GLA Group ‘in any circumstances at any time in the future’.

Khan wrote: ‘This includes your financial guarantor being to the satisfaction of the local authorities and the Port of London Authority.

‘As you are aware, my officials have devoted significant time over the last year to supporting the Trust in attempting to obtain the necessary agreement with Coin Street Community Builders, and their related agreement with Lambeth Council.

‘This follows from the, doubtless considerable, efforts made by the previous mayor.’


Tom Copley, Labour London Assembly Member

’It’s a relief that the Trust have finally decided to stop flogging this dead horse. With Dame Margaret Hodge’s report raining down utter condemnation on the way this project had unfolded, it’s astounding that the Trust has chosen to cling on for so long.

’The integrity of this entire project has long been called into question. It has been made abundantly clear that the Garden Bridge was not an appropriate use of TfL funds, that it did not present value for money and that it was financially unviable. The Trust showed no signs of being able to raise the capital needed to build the project, or raise the revenue to meet the maintenance costs, and such little consideration was given to the liability this would cause to the public purse. This farcical endeavour should have been cut short many moons ago.

’It is a scandal that the cheerleaders for the bridge were allowed to waste so much public money’

’Mayor Khan’s decision to stop any further public money being wasted, once he saw the resounding evidence that this was a poor project, was very welcome. However, it is a scandal that the cheerleaders for the bridge were allowed to waste so much public money by his predecessor. Boris Johnson drove forward this vanity project during his mayoralty, and the lion’s share of the blame for this whole debacle must fall at his feet.

’There’s no way back for those backing the Bridge, but it’s a crying shame that so much has been lost in terms of vital public funds. Going forward lessons must be learnt, and I’m certain my colleagues on the London Assembly’s Oversight Committee won’t relinquish the opportunity to give this calamity the proper scrutiny it deserves.’

Iain Tuckett, chief executive of Coin Street Community Builders

’A lot of time and money has been expended by many public and private bodies on this project and it is important to learn some lessons. It is right that a great city like London should look to realise ambitious and visionary projects but we need to focus not just on the cost of creating these projects but also be realistic about the ongoing costs of managing and maintaining them so that deliver their promised public benefits.

’In the case of the Garden Bridge, questions about the real costs of ongoing management and maintenance – and who should bear them – were initially avoided and eventually addressed too late.’

Ian Ritchie, founder of Ian Ritchie Architects

’There are good reasons to celebrate the passing of the Garden Bridge project. The message has been sent that the public purse is not for plundering. Clarity, honesty and fairness - not vague promises and arrogance - are prerequisite for support by the tax payer.

’It has been a very expensive lesson, and Mayor Khan is to be congratulated for having taken a difficult decision in the face of pressure by powerful and well-connected individuals. Now that it has been learned, we can look forward to some genuinely innovative, exciting and intelligent design for London - including bridges where they are needed.’

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Readers' comments (12)

  • This will cast a shadow over any similar project and make them all the more more difficult.

    £70 mil of supposed supporters money evaporates, and we, the tax-payer are left saying £50 mil for other people's quaint dreams.

    Now even the "Trust" walks away from its duties and debts.

    If it was not a scam, it sure looked like one.

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  • Surely GBT should have sought a judicial review of the Mayor's preposterous and short-sighted decision, which simply advertises the fact that under Khan London is no longer open for business , no longer a place where bold and inspired architecture and engineering can expect encouragement. What on earth did the AJ think it was doing, endlessly persecuting those trying to build the scheme and acting as a patsy for assorted sour nimbies? Is that now how the AJ sees itself, as a destroyer of jobs for architects and engineers?

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  • See the statement from Marks Barfield here: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/cancel-the-garden-bridge-says-hodge-inquiry/10018946.article

  • At last this ridiculous so called "garden" which would soon have become an unloved wind swept eyesore over the Thames has died the death it deserved. What good news! What's wrong, incidentally, with planting a few trees on terra firma for a fraction of the cost of the money that has been spent attempting this vanity project.

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  • and yet, as can be seen above, this remains the most divisive of none built bridges! The Marmite Bridge

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  • PJW should say who he is. He should also read Marks Barfield's statement on the Hodge report published in this story: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/cancel-the-garden-bridge-says-hodge-inquiry/10018946.article?search=https%3a%2f%2fwww.architectsjournal.co.uk%2fsearcharticles%3fqsearch%3d1%26keywords%3dmarks+barfield+garden

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  • Good sense has finally prevailed with regard to this folly that pretended to be a bridge..

    Now, anyone for a new Garden Bridge across the Serpentine?.......

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  • I know some people think that the idea is wonderful, and that all the critics are spoilsports - but surely, if we live in a really democratic and civilised society, then how was a scheme such as this, a privately promoted idea of national (let alone London) significance, with a huge visual impact, able to proceed on the basis of purely local planning approvals backed by heavyweight political leverage and gifts of public money?
    This involved what looked very much like text-book cronyism, and the misuse of the powers and resources of London's transport authority, possibly including the rigging of bids - and if the decision to challenge - 'call in' - the two local councils' planning approvals was left entirely to a pal of the promoters (with close connections to the government) then - inter alia - major planning decisions are not in safe hands.

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  • I'm not a he, WH, nor yet a subscriber, but someone who does subscribe kindly let me use his account on condition I used my own username. Leaving online comments is not something I normally do and if I did I wouldn't normally do it semi-anonymously, but I live reasonably near to the proposed southern landing of the bridge and perhaps you don't realise how toxic the behaviour of bridge opponents has been to those who express a contrary view. You're immediately shouted down in a rather nasty way. So for that reason I'd rather not say who I am. I am sure you're a very professional and competent journalist but it does seem a pity that so much focus has been on financial matters, when any really top-class public infrastructure project is going to come in way above budget. Encouragement seems a better way forward. I will though read the MB report as you recommend.

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  • What never seems to have been made clear is what has happened to the £7OM that the garden Bridge Trust has confirmed has been raised? Where has it gone, in addition to the £60M taxpayers money donated? Who has been auditing this scandalous waste?

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  • What actually happened to the money? How did £46.0m get spent, and on what? Tax-payers money yes, but it's not like anyone was out the back burning piles of cash. All money does is lubricate possibilities.
    Whether this was a useful "possibility" is another question.
    So how and on what was the money spent?

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