The Garden Bridge Trust is to present a new business case to the London Mayor’s office in a last-ditch attempt to avoid the £200 million scheme being scrapped in the wake of Margaret Hodge’s damning report
The AJ’s sister title Construction News understands the trust is due to table a revised plan to mayoral officials shortly after Easter, aimed at allaying concerns that taxpayer’s money could be wasted if the project continues to receive support.
According to planning conditions, the Garden Bridge Trust has just over six months to get the bridge fully signed-off and construction under way, otherwise planning consent for the scheme will lapse.
Although the bridge has been approved by both Westminster and Lambeth councils, Westminster’s approval came with strings attached.
The council stipulated as a planning condition that the bridge’s yearly maintenance costs had to be underwritten as a guarantee that the bridge was financially viable in the long term. The authority to approve such measures lies with the mayor of London.
Construction News understands that until the maintenance costs for the bridge are signed off, the trust also cannot formally acquire the site of the scheme’s south landing point from current owners the Coin Street Community Builders.
Sadiq Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson had previously committed to underwrite the maintenance costs. However, he left office before the agreement was finalised.
Khan has still to commit to underwriting the maintenance element of the scheme.
He previously stated that he would not agree to ’any more of London taxpayers’ money for which he is responsible to be allocated to the project’.
The mayor’s office confirmed that the Garden Bridge Trust had not received any further payment since March 2016, and the trigger for further funds to be released would be dictated by construction getting under way.
A spokesperson for Khan said: ‘The mayor has been absolutely clear that he will not spend any more of London taxpayers’ funds on the Garden Bridge.
‘It is the Garden Bridge Trust that remains responsible for raising the necessary funds and delivering the project.
‘The report also raises some specific concerns around how the previous mayor influenced Transport for London practice on this project in areas like procurement.
’These were concerns that the current mayor shared when he came into office and from day one he sought to address them.’
Earlier this year TfL deferred a payment of £10 million to the Garden Bridge Trust that was due to be initially activated when the construction phase commenced.
However, due to delays with the project, the funds have now been allocated ‘further back in the financial year’. Construction of the Garden Bridge had initially been slated to start in 2015.
A note in TfL’s accounts states: ’Deferred payments of £10m million to the Garden Bridge project, which are expected to be made later in 2017/18. These payments represent part of the existing agreed funding contribution to the Garden Bridge Trust of £30 million.’
The report into the Garden Bridge by senior MP Margaret Hodge, published last week, called for the mayor to ’take a hit’ on the project and accept that public funds had been lost, rather than plough any more taxpayer money into the project.
The report concluded that the trust had a capital funding gap of approximately £70 million, and had failed to secure any new private backers since August 2016.
It stated that: ’It is better for the taxpayer to accept the loss than to risk the additional demands if the project proceeds.’