A bridge too far: London's controversial Garden Bridge cancelled
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has effectively pulled the plug on the city's Garden Bridge amid concerns over ballooning costs. Envisioned as a greenery-filled crossing over the Thames, the Thomas Heatherwick-designed project ultimately proved very controversial.
Conceived by actor Joanna Lumley, the Garden Bridge was backed by private investment but the government also earmarked £60 million (roughly US$77.5 million) of taxpayers' money for it, more than half of which has already been spent. Despite widespread media criticism of the project's design and handling, it seemed likely to go ahead due to heavyweight support, including London mayor Boris Johnson.
However, once Johnson concluded his mayorship and Khan started his term, he directed Dame Margaret Hodge to conduct an independent review into the project. Her conclusion was very critical and posited that the initial cost estimate of £60 million ($77.4 million) would likely rise to over £200 million ($258 million) – which didn't go down well in an era of government-led austerity and public service cuts.
"Under the previous Mayor, a considerable amount of London taxpayers' money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge," said Khan in a press release. "I have always been clear that not a penny more of taxpayers' money should be allocated to the project. Having assessed all the information available to me including the findings of Dame Margaret Hodge's independent review, my view is that providing Mayoral guarantees will expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk."
Technically, Khan hasn't scrapped the project per se. Instead, he refused to provide a guarantee for its future running costs. Since planning permission hinged on that very guarantee though, it's effectively the same thing.
Thomas Heatherwick, writing in London's Evening Standard, lamented "endless political wrangling" and professed hope that the Garden Bridge or something similar would eventually come to London. The newspaper is edited by former British chancellor George Osborne, the same politician ultimately responsible for okaying the use of public money for the Garden Bridge.
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