Garden Bridge Trust to hold make or break talks with mayor’s office

The Garden Bridge Trust is to present a new business case to the London mayor’s office in a final attempt to prevent the £200m scheme from being scrapped following the publication of Margaret Hodge’s damning report on the project last week.

Industry title Construction News is reporting that the trust is due to table revised plans to the mayors officials after Easter, aimed at allaying concerns that taxpayers’ money will be wasted if the project continues to receive public support.

According to planning conditions, the Garden Bridge Trust has just over six months to get the bridge signed-off and construction started, otherwise planning consent for the project will lapse. Although the bridge has received planning approval by both Westminster and Lambeth councils, the Westminster approval was dependent on the bridge’s yearly maintenance costs being underwritten as a guarantee that the bridge was financially viable. The mayor of London has the authority to approve such measures.

Construction News reports that until the maintenance costs for the bridge are signed off, the trust cannot formally acquire the scheme’s south landing point from current owners, Coin Street Community Builders.

Mayor Sadiq Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson previously committed to underwrite the maintenance costs, however, he left office before the agreement was finalised. Khan has still to agree to underwriting the maintenance element of the scheme and he has said that he would not agree to any more of London taxpayers’ money to be allocated to the project.

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.”

The report into the Garden Bridge project by Dame Margaret Hodge published last week said it would be better to scrap the scheme rather than risk spiralling costs and a shortfall in funding. Hodge’s report said that the trust had a funding gap of approximately £70 million and had failed to secure any new private support since August 2016.

In a terse statement following the publication of the Hodge report, Lord Mervyn Davies, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said: “We are pleased that Dame Margaret has finally published her report after six months of uncertainty. We will be studying the report in detail and seeking a meeting with the Mayor to discuss next steps. The Trust remains as determined as ever to make the Garden Bridge happen which will bring huge benefits to London and the UK.”

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