Sadiq Khan has said he will not provide guarantees for the Garden Bridge across the Thames, which is likely to spell the end of the controversial project.
The London mayor has written to the chair of the Garden Bridge Trust, Lord Mervyn Davies, stating that the continuation of the project will expose the London taxpayer to additional financial risk, in connection with both the bridge’s construction and its operation and maintenance.
The signing of operation and maintenance guarantees is a requirement of the Port of London Authority (PLA) and is a condition of the planning approvals from the London Borough of Lambeth and Westminster City Council.
Guarantees must be in place before construction can commence.
The bridge has moved from pie in the sky to dead in the water
Mr Khan criticised his predecessor, Boris Johnson, who had backed the project. He said: ‘Under the previous mayor, a considerable amount of London taxpayers’ money has already been spent on the Garden Bridge. I have always been clear that not a penny more of taxpayers' money should be allocated to the project.
‘Having assessed all the information available to me including the findings of Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review, my view is that providing Mayoral guarantees will expose the London taxpayer to too much additional financial risk.
‘With planning permission due to expire this year, many outstanding issues remain, including spiralling construction costs and doubts around funding the maintenance of the bridge.
‘The funding gap is now at over £70m and it appears unlikely that the Trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project. I am simply not prepared to risk a situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant additional amounts to ensure the project is completed.’
While it is in theory open to the Trust to seek to amend the PLA's requirement and the planning conditions, this is unlikely to happen.
It may also be possible for the Trust to obtain guarantees from the Government.