The controversial Garden Bridge project, intended to provide more greenery in London by using it to span the Thames, has had its state backing cut by £6m.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced that although the financial underwriting of the project will be extended for an unlimited time period, the guarantee will be cut down to £9m.
The current guarantee, which covers up to £15m of cancellation liabilities, expired next month, which had prompted the Garden Bridge Trust to request a year’s extension.
The chairman of the Trust, Mervyn Davies, had to then reissue the plea as the deadline approached with no response from the government, saying that this was a crucial point for the £175m project, and that it would be a “tragedy” if the government pulled their support now.
In a statement by the Department of Transport, minister Lord Ahmad began with praise for the Heatherwick-designed project, but ended with a warning that the government financial support for it is strictly limited.
The government wishes the exciting and innovative Garden Bridge project every success and has provided public funding to help get it off the ground,” he said.
“We have extended our agreement to underwrite cancellation costs but capped at the current level of £9m. The taxpayer must not be exposed to any further risk and it is now for the trust to find private sector backers to invest in the delivery of this iconic project.”
A spokesperson for the Garden Bridge Trust said they were confident of finding those private backers.
“The main thing is the government has indicated its support and that’s the news we really wanted to hear,” she said. “We are talking about cancellation liabilities so it’s hypothetical but we have to be prudent.”
An official statement added: “The government has made it clear it wishes to continue to support the ‘exciting and innovative’ Garden Bridge and has agreed to extend a large part of its underwriting agreement. The Garden Bridge Trustees have agreed to explore any further underwriting required and are currently working with new private-sector sources to build on the current support.”