London's Garden Bridge project formally scrapped

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
– Mervyn Davies, chair of The Garden Bridge Trust

The Garden Bridge Trust, the charity established to build and run the proposed Garden Bridge in central London, has today (14 August) announced that it will be finally winding up the project.

The decision, which brings an end to one of the city’s most protracted development sagas, has been made with the Trust unable to find alternative funding for the scheme, following the decision by London mayor Sadiq Khan in April to scrap any mayoral financial guarantees.

After receiving a damning independent report on the project, Khan said the lack of necessary land use agreements and a significant funding shortfall meant the project represented too much risk to the taxpayer.

In a statement released today, the Trust said it has reached the conclusion that “it cannot proceed with what was always designed to be a public project in the heart of the capital without the support of the mayor of London.”

"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," said Lord Mervyn Davies, chair of the Garden Bridge Trust.

"We had made great progress obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m (US$91m, €77m) of private money towards the project.

“It is all the more disappointing because the Trust was set up at the request of Transport for London, the organisation headed up by the mayor, to deliver the project.”

In response, Khan has released his own statement expressing anger at the loss of tens of millions of pounds provided by the taxpayer “on a project that has amounted to nothing.”

“Following the very serious issues highlighted in the independent review of the bridge – including a funding gap of more than £70m, 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," said the mayor.

The Garden Bridge project will now be formally closed, with donor funding agreements concluded and contracts terminated before the Trust is wound up.

The project, which was designed by Heatherwick Studio based on an idea by British actor Joanna Lumley, would have seen a 366m-long footbridge supporting an expansive garden stretch from the top of Temple underground station on the Northbank to the South Bank.

Critics had long taken issue with the rising costs of the bridge, the restrictions that would be placed on members of the public wishing to use it, the influential support provided by Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson and the controversial procurement process that saw the design team win the contract.

Defending his vision in May, and blaming the project's travails on “political wrangling”, Heatherwick Studio director Thomas Heatherwick said any decision to scrap the bridge would be “such a missed opportunity and waste of resources.”

“Whatever the politics, to me as a Londoner this is saddening,” he said, adding that “it is always easier to stop an unusual new idea than to make it happen.”

The landscape gardener Dan Pearson, who had designed the garden component of the bridge, recently told CLADglobal that “somewhere along the line I think people forgot that the Garden Bridge was also a garden, and that had real impact on the way that it became politicised.”

He added: “We had to look at [people’s] concerns, and some of them were very real. But we had to remain positive because we felt the project could have tremendous value, and that would go beyond the things that were dragging it down. Long-term it could have been a remarkable addition to the city.”

In their own words
Today’s full statements from the Garden Bridge Trust and Sadiq Khan

The Garden Bridge Trust

The Garden Bridge Trust, the charity established to build and run the proposed Garden Bridge in central London, today announced that it will be winding up the project. It has informed the Mayor of London, as well as Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport, who have both allocated public funds to the project, of its decision. The Trust has had no choice but to take this decision because of lack of support for the project going forward from the Mayor.

On 28 April, Sadiq Khan wrote to Lord Mervyn Davies, Chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, stating that he was not prepared to sign the guarantee for the annual maintenance costs of the Bridge, a condition of planning consent, despite previous assurances given about his support for the project.

Since then the Garden Bridge Trust has examined in detail all options available to it. This included discussions with a potential benefactor who was keen to provide the required guarantee. It also had further discussions with the Government. Unfortunately, the benefactor concerned and the Trustees have all concluded that they cannot proceed with what was always designed to be a public project in the heart of the capital without the support of the Mayor of London.

Lord Davies has today written to the mayor outlining the reasons why the Trust has taken this decision.

Lord Davies said: "It is with great regret that Trustees have concluded that without Mayoral support the project cannot be delivered. 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.

"I would like to thank our donors and supporters, who gave us unstinting help and support along the way."

The Garden Bridge project will now be formally closed. This includes terminating contracts, and concluding donor funding agreements. The Trust itself will then be wound up in accordance with the Companies Acts.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan

“It’s my duty to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly.

“Following the very serious issues highlighted in Dame 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.

“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.

“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.”

London  Garden Bridge  Thomas Heatherwick  Garden Bridge Trust  Sadiq Khan  Mayor of London  TfL  Joanna Lumley  Dan Pearson  design  River Thames 
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The Garden Bridge Trust, the charity established to build and run the proposed Garden Bridge in central London, has today (14 August) announced that it will be finally winding up the project. The decision, which brings an end to one of the city’s most protracted development sagas, has been made with the Trust unable to find alternative funding for the scheme, following the decision by London mayor Sadiq Khan in
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The decision to scrap the Thames crossing brings an end to one of the city’s most protracted development sagas / The Garden Bridge Trust
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