I can’t work up much indignation at the collapse of London’s Garden Bridge project, which has been strangled by the refusal of mayor Sadiq Khan to guarantee its continuing operational and maintenance costs — assuming its trustees, led by former banker and minister Lord Davies of Abersoch, would have succeeded in raising the £150 million of private capital required to build the bridge and plant its 270 trees in the first place. Promoted by Joanna Lumley and Sadiq’s predecessor Boris Johnson, this was a beautiful but whimsical idea, placed in an overcrowded stretch of the Thames and based on a ramshackle business plan. In a more confident economic climate it might have gone ahead and given us pleasure — but it has been done for by a combination of funding uncertainty and a London Labour conspiracy (Dame Margaret Hodge in the thick of it) to demolish every vestige of Boris’s reputation. In killing the bridge, they have notched up double success by crying scandal over its alleged £37 million of preliminary spending from public funds.
Meanwhile, more promising is a proposed £40 million pedestrian and cycle crossing from Nine Elms to Pimlico. The borough of Wandsworth and its many apartment-scheme developers are keen to see it happen, while some residents of Pimlico are vociferously opposed. Should this column be for or against? As one angry Pimlico-dweller reminds me, in that longitude of the capital I probably have more readers north of the river than south. But I’m a sucker for an elegant grand projet — the design is by a Danish architect, Erik Bystrup — and this one is relatively cheap and surely good for health and social cohesion: so I’ll stick my neck out and say bring it on.
This is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s ‘Any Other Business’, which appears in this week’s Spectator
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