Somebody Needs To Press The STOP Button

20 Aug 2016

Someone needs to take control and press the Garden Bridge STOP button. As we have seen this week the project is losing donors and not only has a real risk of a huge shortfall in required funding, with the public likely to have to make up any difference, the final build cost is likely to go sky high due to a late start, legal actions, problematic design and a complicated site with the added issue of the Thames Tideway Tunnel construction.

But Sadiq doesn’t have the guts to press it, Whitehall say it’s not their hands that should do it and, clearly, the arrogant Garden Bridge Trust won’t swallow their pride to STOP their vanity dream.

Let’s have a little look at the buckshifting and who can press the button.



 

COIN STREET COMMUNITY BUILDERS

The leaseholders of the public park on the South Bank which would be built over with a commercial unit and queue system for 2,500 people have it in their power to push the red button. They could refuse to allow any construction on their open space, pictured below, which would mean the Garden Bridge Trust would be unable to ‘land’ the bridge. However, CSCB appear to not be interested in supporting the overwhelming wishes of their residents to STOP the development and instead are passing the buck onto Lambeth Council, stating (pdf): “We are the leaseholder of the site proposed for the ‘south landing building’ but, under the lease, we cannot permit development. The freehold belongs to the London Borough of Lambeth, so they would need to decide whether CSCB can allow the proposed development. ”

 

LAMBETH COUNCIL

The leader of Lambeth Council, Lib Peck, or the unelected Strategic Director of Delivery, Sue Foster, could push the red button by refusing to sign off on the outstanding planning conditions. Despite an FOI showing Foster met with Joanna Lumley and Thomas Heatherwick before the dodgy TfL procurement was even launched at the front end of 2013 but Lambeth still claim to be no deeper involved in the Garden Bridge than dilligently observing the planning application. However, it has been asked just how balanced that process has been, especially when Councillor Jack Hopkins, in charge of regeneration, states “The council has always, in principal, supported the Garden Bridge“. But while Lambeth deny any ulterior interest in the development other than as local authority innocently overseeing an application, they effectively pass the buck onto the Mayor.

 

SADIQ KHAN

The Mayor of London should do the right thing and press the red button to STOP the Garden Bridge, but on LBC radio this week he again declined to, saying:

“What I’m not going to do is pull the plug… I saw the chairman [of the Garden Bridge Trust] was on the TV, my understanding is he’s talking to the government through the Transport Secretary for further undertaking so we’ll have to see what happens with the negotiations between the Garden Bridge Trust and the government.”

 

Khan has constantly said he will not stop the bridge but repeatedly promises not risk a single penny more of public money. Presumably this means that he will not sign the underwriting of the £3.5m annual maintenance bill which is a requirement of the first Thames Central Open Spaces Judicial Review which puts potentially hundreds of millions of public pounds at risk. Despite having previously stated he would cancel the Garden Bridge if  made mayor, he now seems happy to ignore any responsibility for the red button and pass the buck onto the government.

 

THE GOVERNMENT

The Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the Department for Transport or Theresa May could press the red button to STOP the Garden Bridge, but they seem to be passing the buck to the Garden Bridge Trust as Newsnight this week reported:

“Whitehall sources have told us today that they reject that the fate of the project is in their hands. They say that’s not fair, in fact it’s the Trust that has to get a hold of this project, it’s for them to say if they can make it work, and for them to ultimately pull the plug if they can’t… We’re not in the business of backing white elephants.”

 

THE GARDEN BRIDGE TRUST

There is nobody the GBT can really pass the buck to, but they are people who have easiest access to the big red button – though they are unlikely to press it. There are huge egos at play alongside a massive entitlement and dangerous arrogance which mean the Trustees will not want to lose face or admit their failures by pressing it.

 

THE RISK IF THE BUTTON ISN’T PRESSED

There have been claims that Khan is trying to “cancel the Garden Bridge by stealth” but this is an incredibly dangerous game. Each week the project is allowed to stutter on it eats up more public money – three weeks ago Sadiq stated the GBT had spent £37.7m of our cash while yesterday he said it was £42m.

The longer that the buck is passed and these elected representatives refuse to do the right thing and take ownership of that red button the greater the risk to our money, democracy, heritage, public space and environment is.

 

There are many other ways in which the Garden Bridge can be stopped. There are inquiries from the Charity Commission and the National Audit Office as well as the ongoing Judicial Review into the legality of Lambeth Council’s decision to allow a public park to be concreted over with a commercial unit, as well as investigations from the media uncovering more concerning issues.

However the simplest and quickest would be for the mayor and the government to heed the sincere warnings from experts, wake up to the sunk cost fallacy, observe the very real risk of an impending financial disaster and push the STOP button!

 


 

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