28 April 2017

Folly's end

So ... it was the Pontist wot won it*. Just a mere 5 days after I extensively documented the Garden Bridge's multitude of failings, London's Mayor Sadiq Khan has pulled the plug on his financial support for the scheme, almost certainly killing the project.
It's great that someone finally grew some balls and did what was necessary, but it's a scandal that it took so long and that £46m of public money had to be wasted first.

The Garden Bridge Trust has said little in response, but without government support, I anticipate that further private funders will withdraw their commitments, and the Trust will rapidly have to declare a halt to its activities in order to be able to meet its existing obligations to creditors. Without the mayor's financial guarantees, the Trust cannot start work on site as it cannot discharge a key planning condition.

Opinion on Twitter seems split about 90% against the bridge, and 10% in favour, with most celebrating the demise of this ignominious project (I guess not all my readers will have spotted that the Pontist is on Twitter now as well).

The death blow to the project came with Margaret Hodge's damning report released three weeks ago, but much of what Hodge said was only possible because of the investigations by Will Hurst at the Architects' Journal, who deserves some kind of award for his persistence in uncovering many of the saga's most sordid details.

There was an interview with Hurst on LBC Radio today, and students of this story should definitely listen to the interview and read the LBC's thorough report, both of which give a very clear idea of quite why the whole Garden Bridge stinks so highly.

The bridge's "demented enemies" (to use Boris Johnson's typically colourful phrase) will now turn their attention to seeing whether those responsible for this colossal failure can be punished or at least humiliated. Some are calling for public funds to be repaid, but there is no chance whatsoever of that happening.

So far as I can see, the project's key protagonists (Johnson, Lumley, Heatherwick) have yet to say their piece, but I don't think they will do anything other than blame the malice of the bridge's opponents for its failure. It will be interesting to watch the accusations and counter-accusations over the next few weeks, but I'll be surprised if anything more comes of it than that.

One folly may be at an end, but the folly that led to it will continue to resurface on projects of this ilk, those that are only kept afloat by delusions of grandeur and by their ability to skirt proper scrutiny.

*(for non-UK readers, see here, and I'm only joking).

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