THE collapse of the £200million Garden Bridge project should lead to focus being moved to where infrastructure is more urgently needed, a City councillor has said.
Gregory Jones QC, Alderman for Farringdon Without, says the location of the crossing, which was due to break ground in his patch adjacent to Temple Tube station and connect to the South Bank, was always behind his decision to oppose plans.
Controversial proposals were scrapped earlier this month with the private funding required to complete the environmental project not forthcoming. It left the taxpayer £50m worse off with nothing to show for the hefty bill.
“Constituents in my ward had real concerns about the bridge,” said Mr Jones.
“In particular, they worried about how the increase in footfall caused by the impact of the bridge was to be accommodated.”
Mr Jones explained that Temple Church was highlighted by advocates as a destination visitor attraction, while Middle Temple representatives, who operate a no-charge private discretionary thoroughfare through the Temple for City-bound pedestrians, were concerned not to have received the necessary assurances as to how this predicted increase in people would be accommodated.
Mr Jones says that it is the east of the Capital that would most benefit from a new bridge, and that building attention should now go elsewhere. He also stressed that he takes no pleasure in seeing the project fall over.
“I express no glee at the announcement that the Garden Bridge is to be abandoned. Many of those committed to its realisation are friends, who passionately believed it to be good for London and its people.
Whilst we must review and learn what has happened, I hope also that we can now move to support the identification of a new Thames river crossing in the east of London where there is, in my judgement, a real need.”
Meanwhile, the Garden Bridge Trust, the charity set up to oversee the project, said that the Mayor’s decision to commission a review of the bid – one that recommended it be scrapped – ultimately killed the proposal.
Sadiq Khan and City Hall refused to guarantee £3m per year in operating costs.
Garden Bridge Trust chairman Lord Mervyn Davies said it was with great regret that trustees trashed plans.
“We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to make the dream of the Garden Bridge a reality and that the Mayor does not feel able to continue with the support he initially gave us,” he said.
“We had made great progress obtaining planning permission, satisfying most of our planning conditions and we had raised £70m of private money towards the project.
“The Garden Bridge would have been a unique place; a beautiful new green space in the heart of London, free to use and open to all, showcasing the best of British talent and innovation.
It is all the more disappointing because the trust was set up at the request of TfL, the organisation headed up by the Mayor, to deliver the project.
It is a sad day for London because it is sending out a message to the world that we can no longer deliver such exciting projects.”