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London Mayor Scraps Plan For Garden Bridge

Monday, May 1, 2017

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London's controversial Garden Bridge project is all but dead.

Mayor Sadiq Khan has scrapped the plan for the span across the River Thames, saying on Friday (April 28) he would not give what he considers exorbitant financial guarantees that would allow construction to begin.

London.gov.uk

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a letter to the Garden Bridge Trust that a fundraising shortfall, compounded by the lack of necessary land use agreements that couldn’t be procured despite three years of negotiations, forced him to abandon the plan to build the pedestrian span.

Planning permission for bridge expires in December, making the timetable appear impossible for necessary financial support to be drummed up, Khan said.

Previous Doubts

Margaret Hodge, a former member of Parliament, said in an April 7 report that the bridge’s estimated cost of 185 million pounds (about $232 million)—garnered from private, public and government sources, making it the most expensive pedestrian bridge in the world—would end up ballooning to more than 200 million pounds (about $250 million).

Lord Mervyn Davies, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, the charity spearheading the oft-delayed proposal, had disputed Hodge’s report, which suggested the bridge project might be scuttled if private funds couldn’t quickly be raised. Davies said the report was “one-sided” and “full of errors.”

After Khan's announcement, Davies said the trust would consider its options but acknowledged  the magnitude of the challenge in finding another organization to finance the estimated 3 million pounds (about $3.9 million) annual maintenance on the span, which was one of Khan’s concerns.

"The Garden Bridge Trust was set up at the request of Transport for London and the Department of Transport to deliver the project which had received public money," Davies said. "We have had enormous support from our funders and are very confident we can raise the remaining funds required.

"But sadly, the Mayor of London has taken a different decision to those in place when the project started."

Mayor's Reasoning

In his letter to the Garden Bridge Trust, Khan said a fundraising shortfall, compounded by the lack of necessary land use agreements that couldn’t be procured despite three years of negotiations, forced him to abandon the plan.

“The funding gap is now at over £70m (about $90 million), and it appears unlikely that the trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project,” Khan wrote. “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.”

Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat London assembly member, said, “It is quite clear this vanity project of (former Mayor) Boris Johnson’s would end up as a bottomless pit for the public purse. It is now dead in the water and will be held up for many years as a case study on wasting public money.”

What Could Have been

Plans for the Garden Bridge were announced in late 2014. The 1,201-foot concrete span, which would have doubled as a pedestrian footbridge and tourist attraction, was to be designed by architects The Heatherwick Studio—whose founder, Thomas Heatherwick, designed the cauldron for the lighting of the torch at the 2012 London Olympic Games—in conjunction with engineers at Arup and landscape architect Dan Pearson.

Rendering: Garden Bridge Trust

The 1,201-foot Garden Bridge would have extended from Temple Island on the north side of the River Thames to the South Bank. It would have been 98 feet at its widest point, featured 270 trees and thousands of plants, and spanned the Thames between the Waterloo Bridge and the Blackfriars Bridge.

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

The bridge was 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.

   

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

Comment from B. BRYCE, (5/1/2017, 5:26 AM)

Considering that most bridges have problems eliminating moisture from their superstructures, and this bridge would have required moisture to be added and retained, I think the future maintenance costs would have been vast, so probably the right decision in the end.


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