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'Very angry' Khan hits back at Garden Bridge Trust

Lse sadiq khan july 2017

London’s mayor has criticised Transport for London’s procurement process and said he is ‘very angry’ about the loss of millions of pounds after the £200 million Garden Bridge was officially scrapped

In a statement released by the Garden Bridge Trust this morning, the trust blamed the ‘lack of support’ from Khan on its decision to wind-up and terminate the Heatherwick-designed scheme.

As a result more than £46 million of public money which had already spent on preparatory work and design fees - including £2.6 million for designer Heatherwick Studio - has effectively been squandered on the unbuilt link across the Thames.

Responding to the news, Khan said: ‘Londoners will, like me, be very angry that London taxpayers have now lost tens of millions of pounds – committed by the previous mayor on a project that has amounted to nothing.

‘I have been clear since before I became mayor that no more London taxpayers’ money should be spent on this project and when I took office I gave the Garden Bridge Trust time to try and address the multiple serious issues with it.’

Khan added: ‘It’s my duty to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly. Following the very serious issues highlighted in Margaret Hodge’s independent review of the bridge – including a funding gap of over £70 million, potentially unlimited costs to London taxpayers to fund the bridge in the future, systemic failings in the procurement process and decisions not being driven by value for money – I could not permit a single penny more of London taxpayers’ money being spent on it.’

However, a spokesman for Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson said: ’It is so sad that Sadiq Khan has killed off the Garden Bridge and wasted so much time and money.

’Labour has no vision for London and no ambition…the Garden Bridge was a beautiful project and could have been easily financed.

’The Labour Mayor claimed to support it but killed it out of spite because it was not initiated in his period of office.’

Hodge’s review, released in April, was heavily critical of the project’s procurement and value for money. It urged the mayor to cancel the Garden Bridge and accept that £46 million of public money had been lost, rather than press on with the scheme (see AJ 07.04.17).

Following the AJ’s long-running investigation into the scheme’s procurement by TfL, Hodge agreed that the appointments of Heatherwick Studio and engineer Arup in 2013 ‘were not open, fair or competitive … and revealed systematic failures and ineffective control systems at many levels’.

Meanwhile Labour MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey and local councillors have called for the government to launch a full public inquiry into the project and to investigate the ‘accountability for the Garden Bridge Trustees in respect of lost taxpayers’ money’.

The group added: ’We look forward to holding those involved in wasting £50 million of public money to account. [We] never had any doubts that the Garden Bridge project would fail but we are disappointed that the project has been allowed to get this far, by the trustees, to the extent that £50 million of taxpayers money has been lost which could have been so much better spent.’


Ian Ritchie, founder of Ian Ritchie Architects

‘Mayor Khan has shown himself to be a prudent guardian of the public purse by refusing to throw good money after bad on a vanity project tainted from its inception. The clear message being sent out is that only open, fair and competitive tendering processes will be tolerated and that when it comes to the public purse, sanity and fiscal responsibility must be allied to imagination.

‘Now we can have some genuinely exciting, intelligent and innovative design for all – including new bridges in east London and new green spaces.’


Readers' comments (10)

  • Well done Mr Khan. A very wise move; and shame on Mr. Johnson for wasting so much money in the first place. Maybe now the money that was allocated for this white elephant can be spent on more worthy projects such as retention of scientists at Kew; or rolling out more cycle paths; or providing a usable bridge east of Tower Bridge....

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  • I fully second Ian's take on this ungainly and pointless calamity. I hope that now lawyers will get to work and at least some of our money will be recovered, and parties found guilty punished.

    Sadly, parallels with the process that led to the tragedy of Grenfell Tower come to mind...

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  • Ian Ritchie's comments, calling for honesty in tendering and the promotion of genuinely useful and innovative design, stand in stark contrast to the sour and dishonest remarks of the spokesman for Boris Johnson.

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  • "parallels with the process that led to the tragedy of Grenfell Tower come to mind..." For Christ's sake..had the bridge been designed by a 'proper' architect from the establishement pool and contained a four-lane cycle super-highway, the piles would be have been driven by now.

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  • Hal-Luke Savas

    How is it possible that a white elephant could be started to fail so easily, how is it possible that in the 21st century we are talking of failure of a project because of 'procurement'? Whilst they vigorously teach how not to waste public money at business schools and there are thousands of experts with impressive nominals after their names yet we wastemillions of Pounds of public money out in the open ?? MAYBE A PUBLIC ENQUIRY IS THE BEST WAY TO ANSWER SOME OF THESE QUIESTIONS!!!

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  • Industry Professional

    The big question is surely how did they manage to spend £46M (or was it £50M) on something that never made it off the drawing board - on what exactly?

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  • What is wrong with vanity projects in a great city like London? Much of what we admire in the capital could have been thus categorized when designed. The real failure of imagination is on the part of an incoming Mayor (determined to rubbish his predecessor's initiatives) unable or unwilling to devise a way of funding the project. We haven't waste hundreds of millions of pounds on cycle super-highways because they have been built. We have, however, wasted £50 million on the Garden Bridge because we aren't building it. Comparisons with Grenfell Tower are disgusting, but not untypical of the angry brigade who have launched their exocets at the bridge from the outset. Slightly embarrassing when they are bridge designers themselves, and might be thought to have a conflict of interest.

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  • For Paul Finch:
    'Determined to rubbish his predecessor's initiatives' could surely equally well be seen as increasingly reluctant to saddle everyone (and not just his own electorate) with an open ended commitment to help finance what many consider to be a clumsy and breathtakingly expensive monument to the power of a small bunch of privileged and manipulative people at a time of increasingly severe public expenditure cutbacks in the name of austerity - cutbacks that really are impacting a great number of people.
    The few were bent on getting their own way, even if it involved making a mockery of the planning system and both abusing and corrupting Transport for London - and some of the backers of the Garden Bridge were drawn from the very establishments that, for their own self-enrichment, helped to facilitate the financial crash that's caused the need for austerity now.
    We might be able to convince ourselves that a naked emperor is fully clothed, Mr Finch, but in reality he's not.

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  • Paul, over some 30 years we agreed on many issues but here we do not. Since I was brought in by the local residents ( as a bridge designer architect no less ) I stood against this project.

    The process was corrupt, the impact disregarded on many levels, and the design infantile and ungainly. Comparisons to NY Hi-way were insulting intelligence as in NY it was an ingenious reuse of obsolete infrastructure.

    Then as others said here I have no idea what TH was paid millions for and where the rest of my money went. I design bridges and these levels of fees look both improbable as well as obscene.

    Then I live 400m from that tower and watched it burning from my roof garden. It now looks like the same social mechanisms that were trying to 'give' us a 'Garden Bridge' may have lead to the Grenfell calamity.

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  • A useful and clear summary here - https://www.change.org/p/save-the-south-bank-from-the-garden-bridge/u/21077107?utm_medium=email&utm_source=petition_update&utm_campaign=120623&sfmc_tk=WFdyVjOp0N7LpsAqIBoWeBHjEMNLAFImqNKKKRkxgUfzjos4ZN58lamCS7mxp%2bLU&j=120623&sfmc_sub=141616740&l=32_HTML&u=23452199&mid=7259882&jb=2

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