It's Official: Garden Bridge Is Dead

John Hill
14. August 2017
Image: Garden Bridge Trust

Although Khan's earlier decision not to guarantee the bridge's annual maintenance costs appeared to kill the project, the Garden Bridge Trust, the charity established to build and run the proposed bridge, explored options to keep it alive. In a statement today from the Trust, these included "discussions with a potential benefactor who was keen to provide the required guarantee" and "further discussions with the Government." Nevertheless, "the benefactor concerned and the Trustees have all concluded that they cannot proceed with what was always designed to be a public project in the heart of the capital without the support of the Mayor of London."

So today's announcement ends a four-plus-year saga to realize a planted pedestrian bridge originally estimated at £60 million, but wich over time ballooned to three times that amount (some estimates pegged its cost at over £200 million with £3.5 million in annual maintenance costs). This year the Trust faced a £70 million gap and no new funds since August 2016. Even though the project is now dead, £37 million in public money was spent on it, with most of the money going to Arup, according to a piece by the Guardian's Oliver Wainright.

What started in 1998 as a memorial to Princess Diana developed by actor Joanna Lumley became a pet project of former Mayor of London Boris Johnson come 2013, when Heatherwick's design won the competition to realize a planted bridge spanning the Thames from Temple on the north to the South Bank development. One year later the bridge gained approval despite vocal opposition to what was seen as a vanity project and a waste of public money. There was little smooth sailing for the project after approval, as Johnson left office, Khan was voted in, and the bridge became, at least to Lumley, politicized.

Although the bridge is dead, the story of it is far from over, as Members of Parliament and councillors are now seeking a public inquiry into the spending of public money. Designer Heatherwick, on the other hand, maintains hope that his vision will one day be realized: "London needs new bridges and unexpected new public places," he tells the Guardian. "The garden bridge has not found its right moment, but I hope one day it will and that London continues to be open to ideas that make life here better."

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