News & PressThe City Surveys Group - The UK's Measurement Specialists
London mayor and Garden Bridge review
Published: 4th October 2016
This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group
The saga of the much-maligned Garden Bridge project took another twist recently as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, ordered a formal review into the project in an attempt to ascertain cost-effectiveness. £60m of public money has already been earmarked for the scheme which has been plagued by setbacks and criticism almost from the word go.
In addition, a number of commentators – including the bridge’s designer and a maritime engineer – have spoken out about the pros and cons of building this landmark (some would say ludicrous) monument – the brainchild of British national treasure and celebrity, Joanna Lumley.
Thomas Heatherwick, lead designer on the Garden Bridge project, warned that the whole project was under threat by being drawn into a highly-charged political debate surrounding the review.
Tim Beckett of maritime civil engineering company Beckett Rankine also weighed in, raising serious concerns about the safety of the bridge. He claimed that: “significantly more vessel collisions and contacts than any other part of the river” occur on the stretch of water of the proposed bridge, between Temple and Southbank.
The Garden Bridge idea was first slated in 2012 with a proposed completion date of 2018, taking just 32 months to construct. However, given the delays already encountered, the opening date has been thrown into doubt.
Following in the footsteps of Boris Johnson, who first mooted the idea of a ‘planted’ bridge spanning the Thames, Khan – initially skeptical of the project – has since thrown his support behind the Garden Bridge project.
Viewing it as a uniquely community-based endeavour, he foresees heavy involvement from local residents, for example to have young people involved in the tending of the garden and for school projects to be based in this unusual green space. Khan intends for the Garden Bridge to be freely accessed by the public all year round.
The Mayor also hopes to encourage investment from private companies in return for hire of this unique venue – but not at the expense of the general public’s enjoyment of the bridge.
He said: “I expect the Garden Bridge Trust to ensure that the bridge be closed fewer days each year for private fundraising events and fewer hours when they do. I also want a guarantee that an ongoing programme of visits will be laid on for local school children.
To carry out the review, Sadiq Khan has engaged the services of Dame Margaret Hodge; the former head of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. Hodge stated she is approaching the review with no prior opinion of the Garden Bridge.
The review will investigate the work of relevant authorities, including the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, to establish whether taxpayers are getting value for their £60m contribution.
Hodge said: “I’m delighted to accept Sadiq’s offer to look in detail at some of the key decisions made so far around the Garden Bridge.
“It’s not a project that I have previously had an opinion on either for or against, but given the millions of pounds of public money allocated to the project, it is clear that there needs to be far more transparency around how funds are being spent.”
The Garden Bridge project is expected to cost in the region of £185m, with £145m already secured in the form of grant funding and private donations. As well as being a unique eco-space, the footbridge will serve a more practical purpose, acting as a pedestrian route into the City.
The project was due to start in summer 2016 under the Franco-Italian joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA but a number of issues with the procurement process has placed an uncertainty over the start date.