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Garden Bridge Trust Disputes Report's Findings

Monday, April 17, 2017

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The squabble over the feasibility of London’s troubled Garden Bridge project continued Thursday (April 13), as a member of the charity behind the span disputed a call for it to be scrapped.

Lord Mervyn Davies, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said Margaret Hodge’s report, which suggests the bridge project might be scuttled if private funds can't quickly be raised, was “one-sided” and “full of errors.”

Garden Bridge rendering
Renderings: Garden Bridge Trust

Lord Mervyn Davies, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, said a report suggesting the bridge project be scuttled was “one-sided” and “full of errors.”

Hodge, a former member of Parliament, announced April 7 that the bridge’s estimated cost of £185 million (about $232 million)—garnered from private, public and government sources, making it the most expensive pedestrian bridge in the world—would swell to more than £200 million (about $250 million) by the project’s completion.

Private Funds Needed

Hodge’s report, which was commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in September, states that the charity spearheading the bridge project:

  • Was too reliant on corporate donations;
     
  • Spent an estimated £37.4 million (about $47 million) on the venture, and even if the bridge was not built would cost taxpayers £46.4 million (about $58 million);
     
  • Secured £69 million (about $86 million) in private funding, leaving a shortfall of £70 million (about $88 million) for capital investment; and
     
  • Lost two major private donors, and has had no new pledges since August 2016.

Prudent to Wait

Hodge suggests that Khan should reject overtures from the trust to guarantee funding until more private financing can be secured.

“I believe it is better for the taxpayer to accept the loss than to risk the additional demands if the project proceeds. In the present climate, with continuing pressures on public spending, it is difficult to justify further public investment in the Garden Bridge,” Hodge said.

Margaret Hodge

National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons

Margaret Hodge (pictured) recently issued her report on the Garden Bridge Project, commissioned by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in September.

Hodge wasn’t recommending directly the project be scrapped, though other options may be limited. She said it was up to the Garden Bridge Trust to “take a grown-up decision” on whether they could solicit more private funds.

“I think you’ve got to probably give them an opportunity to say they can do it,” Hodge said, according to The Guardian. “I’m pretty skeptical of their ability to do that, partly because of their record and partly because it is now such a controversial project. If you’re a big philanthropist, you would not be putting money into this.”

Davies believes Khan holds the Garden Bridge’s fate in his hands.

"Our message to (Khan) is that this report, with its many errors and ill-informed opinions, is no basis upon which to take decisions about a project that has been through the complex democratic processes by which decisions on development are made in this city," Davies reportedly said.

Khan previously said he doesn’t think cancelling the project would be prudent at this time, pointing to the more than £25 million (about $31 million) spent on pre-construction work.

Davies refused to be dissuaded.

"We will be studying the report in detail and seeking a meeting with the mayor to discuss the next steps,” he said, according to reports. "The Trust remains as determined as ever to make the Garden Bridge happen, which will bring huge benefits to London and the UK."

Added a City Hall spokesman: "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."

Anything But Pedestrian

Plans for the Garden Bridge were announced in late 2014. The 1,201-foot concrete span would double as a pedestrian footbridge and tourist attraction. It would be designed by architects The Heatherwick Studiowhose founder, Thomas Heatherwick, designed the cauldron for the lighting of the torch at the 2012 London Olympic Gamesin conjunction with engineers at Arup and landscape architect Dan Pearson.

Garden Bridge map

The 1,201-foot Garden Bridge would span the River Thames, and would serve as a pedestrian crossing and tourist attraction.

The bridge was originally slated to be completed in 2018. Last year, the Trust awarded the construction contract to a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA, and it pushed back the bridge’s opening to 2019.

The structure would extend from Temple Island on the north side of the River Thames to the South Bank. It would be 98 feet at its widest point, feature 270 trees and thousands of plants, and span the Thames between the Waterloo Bridge and the Blackfriars Bridge, near landmarks such as the National Theatre and the Tate Modern.

   

Tagged categories: Architects; Bridges; Europe; Funding; Government; Program/Project Management

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