The new London mayor Sadiq Khan has given his conditional backing to the Garden Bridge project.
But Khan said that the “early days of this project clearly fell short of our expectations on transparency” and has published a list of donors and a business plan for the bridge.
The project has been dogged with controversy and a review of Transport for London’s procurement process, including the consultancy contract with Arup had to be carried out. The review did not find fault with the overall outcome, but said part of the procurement process “didn’t follow TfL policy”. The construction contract with French firm Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai was not part of the review.
In order to get the mayor’s approval, the bridge should be closed for fewer days each year for private fundraising events which will have to be shorter than originally planned. Developers will also have to allow local schools to have a rolling programme of events for pupils to involve them in planting and maintenance. The Garden Bridge Trust will also be expected to share seed and plants from the bridge with London parks.
“The Garden Bridge could rival New York’s High Line. But it must be a genuinely public and open space for all Londoners, rather than a closed and private space,” said Khan.
“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.
“The Trust must also look to build a strong working relationship with parks from all over our city, so that seeds and plants grown on the Garden Bridge can then be replanted in parks across the capital – ensuring it has a positive benefit for all Londoners.
“The early days of this project clearly fell short of our expectations on transparency. I am determined to run the most open and transparent administration London has ever seen. I will let the sun shine in, which is why we are today publishing the previously undisclosed full business plan for the Garden Bridge alongside a list of its funders.”
A Garden Bridge Trust spokesman said: “We share the mayor’s desire to have the bridge open to everyone for as long as possible. Balancing this and the need to raise the required private funds to operate the bridge is important.
“We also share the mayor’s desire to involve young people. We already have a Youth Board made up of over 40 local students, who will be taking an active role in developing our education and schools programme. We are also progressing partnerships with local green initiatives and charities and look forward to developing these further and building on the mayor and the Trusts shared aspirations.”