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Sadiq Khan backs Garden Bridge - with conditions

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The new mayor of London has backed the controversial Garden Bridge but demanded that the £175 million project be more accessible to the capital’s residents

Sadiq Khan said the footbridge across the river Thames, which he suggested could rival New York’s High Line, ‘must be a genuinely public and open space for all Londoners’, as he set out a series of amendments to the Garden Bridge Trust’s plans in return for his continued support.

Among his demands are that the bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, is shut for fewer private fundraising events - currently expected to be 12 a year - and that these functions are shorter so access is restricted for fewer hours.

Khan wants local schoolchildren to be able to visit the bridge and be involved in planting and maintenance, and asked for a guarantee there will be a rolling programme of visits for school children. He also wants the Garden Bridge Trust to build a relationship with London’s parks so seeds and plants grown on the footbridge can be replanted elsewhere in the capital.

He said: ‘The early days of this project clearly fell short of our expectations on transparency. I am determined to run the most open and transparent administration London has ever seen. I will let the sunshine in, which is why we are today publishing the previously undisclosed full business plan for the Garden Bridge alongside a list of its funders.’

The documents reveal the project has attracted funding of just over £143m to date, including £30m from the Department for Transport and £30m from Transport for London (TfL), although £20m of the TfL cash is a loan. Companies have contributed more than £33m including £5m from Sky, £2m from Citigroup, £750,000 from Glencore and £500,000 from Ernst & Young (EY).

Earlier this month, the AJ reported how an inquiry into the procurement of the Garden Bridge, being carried out by EY, had been hit by claims of a conflict-of-interest because it was a founding donor of the Garden Bridge Trust. EY denied there was a conflict of interest.

Individuals have donated more than £11m to the project, while trusts and foundations have put in more than £38m.

A Garden Bridge Trust spokesman welcomed the mayor’s support. ‘We share the Mayor’s desire to have the Bridge open to everyone for as long as possible,’ he said. ‘Balancing this and the need to raise the required private funds to operate the Bridge is important.

‘We also share the Mayor’s desire to involve young people. We already have a Youth Board made up of over 40 local students, who will be taking an active role in developing our education and schools programme. We are also progressing partnerships with local green initiatives and charities and look forward to developing these further and building on the Mayor and the Trust’s shared aspirations.’

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • Good to have a grown-up Mayor.

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  • It would have been a tragedy if this project had been stopped because of the terrible political handling of it by Boris. Well done to Sadiq Khan for backing it despite the politics, and well done for requesting the transparency it should have had in the first place.

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  • This does not auger well for any sound judgments from the new regime on environmental matters, let alone wise use of resources.

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  • What Sadiq Khan said is that analysis of information, the procurement and due consideration would also be material to consideration of the Garden Bridge in future.
    The full report on the funding of the Garden Bridge has now been issued.
    This reveals a massive gap in the projects funding, equivalent to more than the cost of one normal Thames Bridge. It further reveals the ongoing public liability of the £20m public loan guarantee, which is in addition to the ongoing £3.6m (min.) annual publicly guaranteed costs. This transparent release of info. starkly contrasts with the previous hype promoted by the supporters of the bridge to date and their web of previous half truths surrounding this project.
    With ongoing releases of such information it can now be foreseen that a quick early decision to stop this unnecessary, unneeded and costly vanity project that will blight London physically and economically and deliver no real benefit, might now be confirmed.

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  • Sadiq Khan gave his provisional blessing to this thing before his election, so maybe his current stance is designed to mollify those who object to the various sleazy aspects of its gestation - but if Mr Khan thinks that the worst case scenario is just that it will become known as Boris's folly he might be greatly mistaken - the widespread public objection surely extends way beyond trimming the management of the thing as a private toy for the sponsors - there's TfL brazenly fixing the procurement, the blinkered justification of the project at this location, the arrogant lack of consideration of the impact of the thing on what must be the best known riverscape in Britain, the dubious tax profile of at least one of the corporate sponsors, the readiness of both the Mayor of London and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pump public money into it and - not least - the worrying silence (unless I've missed something) from the architects and designers who were given the runaround in the corrupted selection process.
    I'm not sure how this all sits with Mr Khan's seeming concern to maintain a high standard of ethics during his stint as Mayor of London - he can't be scared already of taking a tough decision, can he?.

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  • Wouldn't it be great to substitute a bridge supporting truly affordable housing a la old London Bridge which all these rich companies and individuals could donate to instead and contribute to something of use to the capital?
    And site it well downstream.

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