Our reader poll demonstrates an appetite for more Thames pedestrian crossings. Public money left over from scrapping support for the Garden Bridge would get these moving, says Thomas Lane
The extraordinary saga of the Garden Bridge is drawing to a conclusion. The Mayor has taken on board the damming findings in Margaret Hodge’s report into procurement and financing and announced there will be no further financial support for the project from the GLA.
Khan has made a sensible decision. The report showed there was a £70 million funding shortfall for its construction. £37.4 million of public money has already spent; committing further funds would be throwing good money after bad. There was also big question marks over the estimated £3 million annual bill for maintenance.
It is unlikely the Garden Bridge Trust will find the money to build the bridge let alone find a donor prepared to underwrite the long term maintenance cost. The project is effectively dead.
Without GLA backed maintenance guarantees Westminster Council’s planning permission will now be withdrawn. It is unlikely the Garden Bridge Trust will find the money to build the bridge let alone find a donor prepared to underwrite the long term maintenance cost. The project is effectively dead.
Some good could come out of this debacle. The Thames has huge gaps in its footbridge infrastructure with nothing east of Tower Bridge until the Greenwich foot tunnel and there are big gaps between bridges west of Battersea. This lack of infrastructure was a key reason why people opposed public funds being spent on the Garden Bridge which is in an area well served by Thames crossings. Regeneration of the former docks, Nine Elms and Battersea has made the case for new crossings more urgent.
There has been plenty of proposals, some have planning and a degree of funding – all are far cheaper than the Garden Bridge. Our poll of 5 proposed crossings shows overwhelming support for the Diamond Jubilee bridge next to Battersea rail bridge. It has planning and is 40% funded from the Community Infrastructure Levy.
The runner-up was the Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe Bridge, supported by cycling charity Sustrans and TfL and now backed by Khan.
The Diamond Jubilee has no TfL funding and Khan has asked TfL to look at how the Canary Wharf and Rotherhithe might be funded. Now Khan has cut the Garden Bridge loose, some of the remaining money from the £60 million of public money earmarked for the Garden Bridge could be diverted to supporting these bridges for the genuine benefit of London.
This is a revised version of the piece that appeared earlier today after Khan’s announcement that the GLA was withdrawing its financial support