The architect behind the controversial Garden Bridge crossing over the Thames has expressed his regret over the “endless political wrangling” that has left the £185m project hanging in the balance.
Writing in the Evening Standard days after mayor of London Sadiq Khan decided to withdraw a funding commitment for the bridge, Thomas Heatherwick said the mayor’s decision was a “missed opportunity” to create a new crossing between the South Bank and Temple.
Describing current bridges over the river as being buffeted by wind as well as the roar of cars, buses and lorries, the architect said his design was an opportunity to create a “calm, walkable and connected public space”.
Mr Heatherwick said: “Much of the funding has been in place for some time. Large sums of public and philanthropic money have been pledged and spent.
“But endless political wrangling has now brought it to a standstill. Whatever the politics, to me as a Londoner this is saddening; for a project so close to reality to be abandoned is such a missed opportunity and waste of resources.”
Mr Heatherwick’s comments come after CN’s sister title the Architects Journal revealed that the body behind the project had privately expressed concerns over the ballooning costs of the bridge.
According to documents released to the AJ under the Freedom of Information Act, the deputy chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust Paul Morrell predicted that the cost of the scheme was likely to rise to £170m in correspondence dating from 4 December 2013 weeks after the Trust itself had publicly stated that the projects would cost £150m.
Last week the mayor of London refused to back his predecessor Boris Johnson’s decision to give a mayoral guarantee for the Garden Bridge’s operation and maintenance costs.
The financial guarantee, which would underwrite the estimated £3m annual cost of the bridge’s upkeep, must be in place before construction commences, given that it is a requirement of the Port of London Authority (PLA) and a condition of the planning approvals from both Lambeth and Westminster councils.
On Sunday, actress and Garden Bridge backer Joanna Lumley also criticised the decision to scrap funding for the bridge by the mayor, telling the Times: “There was so much negativity about this £60m of public money.
“All we heard was £60m, £60m, £60m. But… it’ll work out at about 32p a person in the UK. It’s not as if we’re stealing bread from people!”