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Khan pulls plug on Garden Bridge

Words: Huw Morris

London mayor Sadiq Khan has effectively scrapped the highly controversial Garden Bridge across the Thames.

Khan said he would not provide financial guarantees for building the bridge, citing continuing a £70 million shortfall in funding and a lack of land use agreements for the scheme, which had been championed by the actress Joanna Lumley.

Planning permission for the bridge, from Temple on the north side of the Thames to the South Bank, is due to expire in December.

The bridge was backed by previous mayor Boris Johnson and former chancellor George Osborne, who committed £60 million of public funding to the project with the balance to be raised from private and corporate donations.

Khan had commissioned Labour MP and former public accounts committee chair Margaret Hodge to review whether the scheme was value for money. She recommended scrapping it earlier this month to stop wasting any more public money.

During the mayoral campaign and since his election last year, Khan repeatedly stated he would not agree to any more taxpayers’ money for which he is responsible being spent on the Garden Bridge project. The mayor had also said he would not provide any guarantees unless he was convinced that the project would not lead to additional public expenditure down the line.

In a letter to the Garden Bridge Trust, Khan cited increasing capital costs, the risk of the bridge only being partially built and doubts over endowment fund for future maintenance costs.

“Under the previous mayor, a considerable amount of London taxpayers’ money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge. I have always been clear that not a penny more of taxpayers' money should be allocated to the project.

“With planning permission due to expire this year, many outstanding issues remain, including spiralling construction costs and doubts around funding the maintenance of the bridge.

“The funding gap is now at over £70 million and it appears unlikely that the trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project. 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.”

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