By Michael Ball
Public event on Monday 18th May at 7pm @ St John’s Church, Waterloo, SE1
The event is intended to be fun as well as informative, with experts from a wide range of interests contributing, and potential candidates for the 2016 Mayor of London elections in attendance. We have made a lot of progress in recent months, unearthing facts which throw the project into further question. Back in March a judge granted permission for a judicial review of the planning permission for the Garden Bridge, but ruled that we could not raise questions about funding and maintenance. I challenged this, and at a hearing in late April the High Court agreed that key questions about the funding of the £175m Garden Bridge need to be answered in a full judicial review of the project.
The bridge would generate £3.5m annual running costs, and there is no certainty that the various galas and corporate events planned by the Garden Bridge Trust could cover this. Westminster Council demanded that these costs be underwritten by the Mayor of London, but Lambeth Council made no provision for this when granting permission. Yet the supposed benefits of the bridge rely upon it being open to the public for free. Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that Lambeth Council may have ignored potential funding gaps, including the possibility of the Garden Bridge Trust going bust, with the high running costs landing on the public purse.
Mr Justice Ouseley criticised Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, for making statements at a Question Time session in March which were incomprehensible “either in terms of English, or of what Mr Johnson could have intended”. Boris Johnson has been widely censured for secretly giving a guarantee that he would underwrite the runnng costs, while publicly denying that public funding would go towards this, which amount to £90m over the lifetime of the bridge.
The High Court ruling was a major setback for the Garden Bridge Trust, who have argued that the funding issues were academic since the Trust was confident it could raise the £175m capital costs and the £3.5m annual running costs. However no new backers have come forward since Citigroup promised £3m last year, and they have only managed to raise a third of the costs through individual or corporate pledges and donations.
The full judicial review is scheduled to be heard in the High Court later in June. Crowdfunding for this at www.everyclick.com/tcos is going well but we still need to raise over £10,000 so please do consider donating – every penny counts, and with Giftaid we can clawback an extra 25% from tax.
For more information, why not see what the papers say…
- The Observer: how the Greenwash Bridge is condemned by environmentalists… http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/may/02/green-groups-condemn-glencore-involvement-in-garden-bridge
- The Financial Times: London garden bridge project faces questions on contract tenders… http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fbdd5c72-c407-11e4-a02e-00144feab7de.html#axzz3ZfiRxPMg
- The Observer: London garden bridge plan is a misuse of funds say critics… http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/04/garden-bridge-london-thames-boris-johnson
- The Guardian: The great garden swindle – how developers are hiding behind shrubbery… http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2015/apr/16/the-great-garden-swindle-how-developers-are-hiding-behind-shrubbery