London garden bridge scrapped due to lack of support from mayor - Naijatune

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Monday, 14 August 2017

London garden bridge scrapped due to lack of support from mayor

The charity set up to build a garden bridge across the Thames has scrapped the project, ending a long-running saga involving two London mayors and the actor Joanna Lumley.
The Garden Bridge Trust said on Monday that it had told Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, as well as Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport, of its decision, taken due to a lack of support for the project from Khan.
Khan wrote to Lord Mervyn Davies, chair of the trust, in April, announcing that he would not provide the vital financial guarantees needed for construction to begin.
Davies wrote to Khan outlining the reasons why the trust had taken the decision. “It is with great regret that trustees have concluded that without mayoral support the project cannot be delivered,” he wrote.
“We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to make the dream of the garden bridge a reality and that the mayor does not feel able to continue with the support he initially gave us.
“We had made great progress obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m of private money towards the project.”
“The garden bridge would have been a unique place; a beautiful new green space in the heart of London, free to use and open to all, showcasing the best of British talent and innovation. It is all the more disappointing because the trust was set up at the request of TfL, the organisation headed up by the mayor, to deliver the project.
“It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects.”
Thebridge would have extended from Temple on the north side of the Thames to the South Bank and featured 270 trees and thousands of other plants. The proposal was originally devised by Lumley and won support from Boris Johnson, Khan’s predecessor as London mayor, and the then chancellor George Osborne, who committed £60m of public money to the scheme.
The rest was intended to be raised from corporate donations, but fierce local opposition and fruitless talks with the housing trust occupying the south side of the project delayed the start of construction, and costs rose.
While proponents argued that the bridge would be a big tourist asset and a useful pedestrian link, critics argued it was in an overcrowded section of London already well served by bridges. They also questioned why taxpayers’ money should be spent on a link that will be privately run, can set its own rules, and close at night and for private events.
Khan said he had taken the decision to withdraw support because of a continuing shortfall in fundraising for the scheme and the lack of the necessary land use agreements despite three years of talks.
“The funding gap is now at over £70m and it appears unlikely that the trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project,” he said in April.
“I am simply not prepared to risk a situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant additional amounts to ensure the project is completed.”
Khan commissioned the Labour MP Margaret Hodge to investigate whether the bridge still represented value for public money. Her report, published earlier this month, recommended it be scrapped.
The Garden Bridge Trust is reliant on corporate donations, but the charity had lost major donations and only secured £69m in private pledges, leaving a gap of at least £70m, with no new pledges obtained since August 2016, Hodge found.
The trust’s recent accounts showed its finances were “in a precarious state” and public support appeared to be ebbing away, making it even less likely new pledges could be found.
Hodge told the Guardian at the time that she was not recommending the project be scrapped, and that it was up to the Garden Bridge Trust to “take a grownup decision” on whether they could raise the necessary private pledges.

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