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.’