Row over £175 million garden bridge across the Thames as campaigners blast ‘misuse of public funds’ for ‘vanity project’

  • Opposition to garden spanning the Thames, favoured by Boris Johnson, gathers speed as use of funds criticised
  • George Osborne and the mayor have promised £60 million in funds but opponents say the public won't have access
  • Critics want a parliamentary inquiry into the bridge ahead of a judicial review in May which could end the plans  

Increasing opposition to a £175 million ‘garden bridge’ championed by Boris Johnson could scupper the mayor’s plans for a new green space spanning the Thames.

Local campaigners vigorously opposed to the bridge are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the scheme ahead of a crucial judicial review next month, the Observer reported.

They want lawmakers to look into the misuse of public funds. When the project first began it was promised it would be paid for in its entirety through private funds.

£60 million of public money has been pledged by Boris Johnson and George Osborne - £30 million each – for the project.

Local campaigners vigorously opposed to the bridge are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the scheme ahead of a judicial review

Local campaigners vigorously opposed to the bridge are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the scheme ahead of a judicial review

The promises were made against a tide of criticism likening the scheme more to a privately managed tourist landmark than a bridge.

The particulars of how the garden will actually operate indicate limited group sizes and perhaps even a ticketing system.

The bridge will close for private, corporate events once a month and shut between the hours of midnight and 6 am. There will also be no provision for a cycle path across the bridge as previously outlined.

Those opposed to the bridge garden have accused the Mayor and the Chancellor of disregarding guidelines while using money meant for public transport which would not normally benefit such a small group of people.

The Director of the Waterloo Community Development group, Michael Ball, has said the £175 million could fund 30 million new London parks or the equivalent of 30 times the area of open space the bridge would give.

Calling the bridge a ‘vanity project’ Ball was quoted as saying money should be available for the bridge through the Heritage Lottery Fund as is common practice.

It has been claimed the garden could not be classified as transport structure as it would have no public right of way

It has been claimed the garden could not be classified as transport structure as it would have no public right of way

He claimed the garden could not be classified as transport structure as it would have no public right of way. Ball asked how the scheme could be approved of through ‘normal processes’.

The chair of the London Assembley’s budget and performance committee, John Biggs, accused Mr Johnson of sophistry.

He highlighted the mayor’s previous statements that public money would not be used for the bridge only to reveal last month that public funds would be needed in perpetuity to underwrite the bridge’s yearly £3.5 million maintenance bill.

George Osborne (left) and Boris Johnson (centre) have promised £30 million each for the scheme which Michael Ball (right) has called a vanity project
George Osborne (left) and Boris Johnson (centre) have promised £30 million each for the scheme which Michael Ball (right) has called a vanity project

George Osborne (left) and Boris Johnson (centre) have promised £30 million each for the scheme which Michael Ball (right) has called a vanity project

It was recently put forward by the London Assembly that the public have free access to the proposed bridge, considering how much taxpayers’ money was being used for it.

In May a judicial review will consider Lambeth council’s handling of approval for the scheme.

The bridge increasingly seems to be losing support of environmentalists who are sceptical of the garden. 

Grahame Madge, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: 'Our view is very clear. It is an extremely expensive project for limited wildlife gain. 

'Helping people get access to London's wildlife is a big priority for us - but the money could be spent elsewhere. 

'We were quite interested in the project in the beginning but we realised it had limited benefits.'

The bridge increasingly seems to be losing support of environmentalists who are sceptical of the garden

The bridge increasingly seems to be losing support of environmentalists who are sceptical of the garden

 

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