The official Labour Party candidate for next year’s London mayoral elections has said he would stop the controversial Thomas Heatherwick-designed Garden Bridge project if elected
Sadiq Khan admitted that while he loved the idea of the structure ‘in principle’, the reality of what was proposed was a waste of money.
‘What we were sold is a long way from the reality we now face,’ he told the Evening Standard. ‘It has become another of Boris Johnson’s white elephant projects – like the Cable Car which is used by few at the cost of millions of pounds.
‘I believe it no longer represents value for money. This was supposed to be an entirely privately funded project costing £60 million, but the overall cost has tripled, and £60 million is being paid for out of the public purse, with a possible maintenance cost of £3.5 million a year – for a bridge which will often be closed to the public for private events and won’t be open overnight.’
It no longer represents value for money
The Tooting MP, who was selected as Labour’s candidate for the mayoral race earlier this month, said he would direct the public funding earmarked for the Garden Bridge to the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street if his City Hall bid is successful.
Khan’s comments came as Labour-led Lambeth Council said it was putting negotiations over land required for the bridge’s development on hold because of the level of public-funding now required for the project.
In a letter to London Mayor Boris Johnson, council leader Lib Peck said the authority was ‘not willing to use more of our time and energy with continuous negotiations until a more appropriate funding model is brought forward’.
Johnson told the Evening Standard the moves were a ‘shameful exercise in political posturing’.
Garden Bridge Trust chairman Lord Mervyn Davies said the organisation was ‘staggered’ by Lambeth’s change in stance.
‘In the numerous meetings and in the continual dialogue over two years they have been hugely supportive and great partners,’ he said.
‘To suddenly do a U-turn is extremely troubling. We are so far down the road on fundraising and planning and have huge public support for an extraordinary project with real benefit for the people.’
Response from the Garden Bridge Trust
Bee Emmott, executive director of the Trust:
‘We are surprised at Lib Peck’s letter particularly given how closely we have worked with Peck and Lambeth Council for the last two years. Planning Permission was granted by Lambeth Council in late 2014. We have been very clear from the outset that the public funding is a way to stimulate private contributions, which will make up the greater amount of the funding and, as Lambeth knows, a significant amount of funding has already been spent during this preconstruction phase following Lambeth granting planning permission.
‘We will be seeking clarity from Lambeth about the letter given planning permission has been granted and much money has been spent.’
‘The Mayoral Election is in May 2016 by which time the bridge will be under construction and a substantial amount of public funding spent.’
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