Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge slammed as ‘a vanity project’ by Sadiq Khan

Plans for the Garden Bridge were officially canned in August 2017, by which time they had cost £43m of public money.
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Questions on the fairness of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion surprisingly led to mention of Boris Johnson’s failed Garden Bridge project during Mayor’s Question Time on Thursday (September 14), as an example of one of the former mayor’s “vanity” projects.

The Garden Bridge was a major piece of work backed by Mr Johnson during his tenure. To be covered in trees and flowers, and to host a commercial building, it was to be open only to pedestrians and located between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.

Intended to be largely funded via private investment, as well as contributions from the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL), the project was canned in 2017 after a review led by Dame Margaret Hodge MP concluded it should be ditched before further costs racked up.

By the time it was scrapped in the August, it had swallowed £53m, £43m of which was public money.

Former London mayor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images.Former London mayor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images.
Former London mayor and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Brandon Bell/Getty Images.

During Thursday’s Mayor’s Question Time, Conservative London Assembly Member (AM) and mayoral candidate Susan Hall quizzed Mr Khan on the issue of fairness, specifically in relation to the ULEZ expansion.

Labour AM Leonie Cooper followed by adopting the same line of questioning to put comments Ms Hall had allegedly made about the London Living Wage and Notting Hill Carnival to the mayor, before moving on to the issue of wasted money.

She said: “On the issue of spending money wastefully, we have mentioned the previous mayor of London who wasted an awful lot of money on Garden Bridge. Do you think that was fair to Londoners? Or indeed the water cannon? The list is quite long.”

Mr Khan responded saying how the funding spent by the Greater London Authority (GLA) is “taxpayers’ money”, and that it is important it is done so “prudently”.

“I think the Garden Bridge was a vanity project,” he continued. “It was unfair to waste more than £40 million of Londoners’ hard-earned taxpayers’ money on a vanity project.”

Mr Khan also described Mr Johnson’s purchasing of water cannons, despite not receiving approval from the Home Secretary at the time, Theresa May, as a “waste” and “unfair”.

Three of the cannons had been bought from German police in 2014, before Ms May banned them from use anywhere in England and Wales. They were eventually sold for £11,025, a fraction of the £322,834.71 spent on them, reported the Guardian.

Earlier in the session, Mr Khan had told the Assembly that per capita, Notting Hill Carnival has as many arrests as at Reading Festival and Glastonbury, and less than the Euro 2020 finals at Wembley.

“Why should we ban those people who organise a carnival from having a carnival in Notting Hill?” he said.