Boris Johnson says he would have kept Garden Bridge project if he were mayor
The former London mayor described his successor Sadiq Khan’s decision to drop the scheme as a ‘bitter disappointment’.
Boris Johnson has said he would have continued with the abandoned Garden Bridge project were he still mayor of London.
His successor Sadiq Khan killed off the controversial plan after a damning report by Dame Margaret Hodge found it could have ended up costing more than £200 million.
But Mr Johnson claimed her probe was a “gimcrack affair” riddled with “peculiarities”, as he defended his support for the landscaped Thames pedestrian crossing.
The Foreign Secretary said that despite his initial scepticism, he came to the view that the Thames pedestrian bridge would have have been a “fantastic amenity” which satisfied transport needs, and described its cancellation as a “bitter disappointment”.
He told the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) oversight committee: “That’s not the decision I would have taken were I still doing the job I once did.”
In what was at times a chaotic hearing, members of the GLA committee had to raise their voices in an attempt to guide Mr Johnson back on to the topic of the bridge as he repeatedly digressed into praising his own record in office and criticising Mr Khan.
The Tory MP also attacked the current mayor for failing to give the project the political “push” it needed and claimed the Labour politician had spent £9 million on it, adding to the £37 million previous outlay, before cancelling it.
“I think that when I left office what had happened roughly speaking is about £36-37 million had been spent, something of that order,” he said.
“My successor came into office as the committee knows and decided I think… reversed his initial hostility to the bridge and decided he was actually going to support it, but never really gave it the political push that it needed.
“And as time went on he, I think it would be fair to say, blew hot and cold about it and when it came to it I think didn’t feel that he really wanted to deliver the project for one reason or another.
“And in the interim further cost was racked up of about £9 million I believe.”
He added: “To get anything done in London you’ve got to push, push and really believe in it.”
It was a fairly gimcrack affair, unlike the Garden Bridge which would have been a beautiful piece of engineering and stood the test of time Boris Johnson on Dame Margaret Hodge's probe
Mr Johnson also criticised Dame Margaret’s inquiry, saying witnesses were not shown documents in advance of their hearing, and claiming there was “confusion about the transcripts and what had actually being said”.
Dame Margaret asked the Foreign Secretary to appear in front of the inquiry but he claimed he held off because it was “odd” and “curiously framed” by not being on a statutory footing.
“It was a fairly gimcrack affair, unlike the Garden Bridge which would have been a beautiful piece of engineering and stood the test of time,” Mr Johnson said.
The much talked about initiative had been championed by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley but was abandoned amid bitter recriminations over the use of taxpayers’ cash.
Mr Khan said in April 2017 he would not provide guarantees for the planned bridge because it would leave taxpayers in the capital at risk of higher bills.
More than £37 million of public money had already been spent on the project.
The move followed a damning Dame Margaret’s damning report which recommended dropping the proposed Thames crossing because it was “difficult to justify further public investment” in the bridge, which was likely to end up costing more than £200 million.