London

Lambeth Council halts Garden Bridge talks due to funding concerns

The bridge Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Lambeth Council has suspended negotiations over a planned Garden Bridge, saying not enough has been done to attract private-sector backing.

The proposed bridge would stretch from Temple to the South Bank in Lambeth.

But the council has said it will only allow planning to continue if it is assured that the project's funds are not taken from Transport for London.

The Garden Bridge Trust responded that private contributions will make up "the greater amount of funding".

London Mayor Boris Johnson approved plans for the £175m bridge in 2014 after Lambeth Council and Westminster City Council granted planning permission.

Westminster Council told BBC London the bridge was granted permission in light of its "iconic design and significant public benefits" and its position remains unchanged.

The chancellor and the mayor have pledged £30m each, with the rest due to come from private funding.

Lambeth Council asked for assurances that this money would not be taken from Transport for London.

The leader of Lambeth Council, Lib Peck, said: "During a time of severe spending cuts, putting £30m of public funding towards this new bridge isn't justified."

She claimed that since June there had been "little progress in attracting alternative funding from the private sector".

She went on to state that future mayoral support for the scheme is "weakening", a reference to Labour mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan's announcement that he does not support the project.

'Surprised'

Mr Khan described the bridge as a "white elephant" which "no longer represents value for money".

Bee Emmott, executive director of the Garden Bridge Trust, said: "We are surprised at the letter, particularly given how closely we have worked with Lib Peck and Lambeth Council for the past two years.

"We have been very clear from the outset that the public funding is a way to stimulate private contributions, which will make up the greater amount of the funding."

She pointed out that a "significant" amount has already been spent in the preconstruction and said the Trust will seek clarification from Lambeth about its announcement.

A Populus poll of 1,005 Londoners commissioned by Labour councillor Kevin Craig suggests 36% oppose it and 19% neither support or oppose.

This contrasts with a similar-sized survey carried out by ComRes in July 2015 on behalf of the Garden Bridge Trust, which indicated 78% support the bridge.

Actress Joanna Lumley is among those who support the crossing, designed by London 2012 cauldron creator Thomas Heatherwick.

It is estimated seven million trips per year will be made across the bridge.

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