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.’
A grossly overpriced footbridge for Londoners, wanted neither by them nor the tax paying populous at large.— Mr G (@Only_Me_4) August 14, 2017
In a way this is sad as the potential for some nice greenspace has been lost. https://t.co/VC6s8C08jZ— Paul ✍️📐 (@PaulMarsyArchBA) August 14, 2017
Hooray! I'm going to give those trees a big hug next time I'm there :) https://t.co/Fsr2uMJDI9— Angela Dunne (@AngelaADunne) August 14, 2017
so wait, which mayor is to blame? Boris for syphoning public cash for a white elephant or Sadiq for standing firm?— CMDR Damo (@dcb72) August 14, 2017