Doubt has been cast on the future of the controversial Garden Bridge over the Thames after Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan vowed to withdraw City Hall’s support for the scheme.
The bridge, which is backed by actress Joanna Lumley, is being supported with £60m of public funds despite initial promises by Mayor Boris Johnson that no taxpayer money would be spent to build it.
Mr Johnson has also committed Transport for London to underwrite the bridge’s maintenance costs in perpetuity should its backers be unable to raise enough money from corporate lets and hospitality to pay the bills.
Over the past year a series of revelations about the bridge and restrictions on its use – including a ban on cycling the playing of games – have caused politicians from all opposition parties at City Hall to question its receipt of public funding.
London Assembly members have previously revealed that Londoners will have no right of access to the bridge despite bankrolling its building costs and that the entire bridge will be closed at night to enable it to hired out for corporate events.
And it’s recently been confirmed that TfL managers disposed of notes made during a tender process for the bridge’s early development despite questions about how TfL handled key contracts.
Speaking on Thursday Mr Khan said the scheme “has become another of Boris Johnson’s white elephant projects” which “no longer represents value for money”.
He added: “his was supposed to be an entirely privately funded project costing £60 million, but the overall cost has tripled, and £60 million is being paid for out of the public purse, with a possible maintenance cost of £3.5 million a year – for a bridge which will often be closed to the public for private events and won’t be open overnight.”
Instead of backing the bridge, Khan said he would use the promised cash “in a way which is more beneficial to London’s economy” and pedestrianise Oxford Street to create a “place for all Londoners to be proud of, to walk and shop and meet in, with space for pedestrians and cyclists, open 24/7 with no closures for private functions.”
Mr Khan’s comments came as the Evening Standard reported that Lambeth council “effectively pulled the rug out from under the project by putting negotiations over the land required for the Bridge on hold.”