The mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been urged to scrap Thomas Heatherwick’s £200m garden bridge after the project was slammed in a report by Margaret Hodge.
Dame Margaret, who had been asked to review the value of public funds spent on the project, found ‘multiple’ failings in the proposals and has concluded that the bridge was driven by political motivations and “electoral cycles rather than value for money”.
Mr Khan has been put under pressure to ditch the project even though £46m of public money has been poured into the proposals since they were first unveiled.
In her report, Dame Margaret stated that it would be better to simply accept the loss of £37.4m of public funds which have already been allocated to the bridge rather than let it go ahead.
An agreement to underwrite the costs of the project could see the bill rise to £46.4m in total, the report said.
The bridge, which if built would link the South Bank of the Thames with Temple to the north, was originally estimated to cost £60m. However, the costs have skyrocketed to £200m.
Dame Margaret said: “Value for money for the taxpayer has not been secured.
“It would be better for the taxpayer to accept the financial loss of cancelling the project than to risk the potential uncertain additional costs to the public purse 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.
“I would urge the mayor not to sign any guarantees until it is confirmed that the private capital and revenue monies have been secured by the Garden Bridge Trust.”
A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “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.
“The report also raises some specific concerns around how the previous mayor influenced Transport for London practice on this project in areas such as procurement.”
Responding to the report
Commenting on the publication of the report Lord Mervyn Davies, Chairman of the Bridge Trust, said: “We are pleased that Dame Margaret has finally published her report after six months of uncertainty.
”We will be studying the report in detail and seeking a meeting with the Mayor of London to discuss next steps. The Trust remains as determined as ever to make the Garden Bridge happen which will bring huge benefits to London and the UK.”