Transport for London has dramatically slashed its financial contribution to the controversial Thames Garden Bridge project.
The body, which is chaired by London mayor Boris Johnson, will now only spend £10M on the central London river crossing – down from an original pledge to contribute £30M.
The reduction comes after Lambeth council leader Lib Peck suspended talks over a lease for the bridge’s south landing site due to concerns about taxpayer contribution to the scheme.
In a joint statement this week, Lambeth council and project promoter the Garden Bridge Trust said they had reached an agreement – and that lease talks would resume.
Private funds will be sought to make up the funding gap, with TfL standing by to loan the Trust the £20M if needs be. The project is estimated to cost £175M in total, with £30M to come from central government and £85M already pledged from the private sector.
Peck said: “I’m pleased that Londoners are getting a better financial deal, particularly at a time of austerity when all public sector organisations are being forced to make deep cuts to services.
“We’ve been in tough negotiations with the Garden Bridge Trust and Transport for London (TfL) and I’m pleased we’ve successfully agreed a deal that will cut London taxpayers’ contribution towards the Garden Bridge by two-thirds.”
Garden Bridge Trust chairman Lord Mervyn Davies said: “We are delighted to move forward with the project. We have been hugely successful in our efforts to raise funds from the private sector, with £85M pledged to date, and we have agreed that any of the committed funds from TfL spent over the £10M will be treated as a loan. We are delighted the Garden Bridge can now progress and are grateful for all the support we’ve had.”
A Garden Bridge Trust spokesperson said: “The Trust has already raised approximately £85M of private funding in 18 months and we will continue to fundraise throughout construction. The success of our fundraising to date means we are confident we can raise any additional funds within the agreed timeframe.”
A spokesperson for Johnson said: “The mayor is pleased that Lambeth Council is ready to proceed and help the Garden Bridge Trust to deliver this landmark project. The mayor believes the bridge will be a fantastic addition to London’s skyline and a driver of jobs and growth for the capital.”
Charity and project promoter the Garden Bridge Trust this summer submitted revised plans to Lambeth and Westminster councils as part of preparations for starting work on the controversial crossing early next year.
The Thames Garden Bridge has attracted criticism from various groups, with engineers questioning the cost and usefulness of the project.