The National Audit Office today (11th October 2016) published the results of its investigation into the the Department for Transport's funding of the Garden Bridge Project.

The Ramblers opposes the proposed Garden Bridge because of its impact on existing green spaces and the Thames Path national trail.  We do not believe that the benefits claimed for the bridge offset the damage to the walking environment caused by attracting more tourists to an already busy area and enclosing genuinely public space with a highly regulated, partially closed private tourist attraction.  The public money wasted on this proposal could be far better spent on a myriad of projects across London.

You can read the report for yourself by following the link, above, but key points taken from the Summary include:

  • In its assessment of the business case, the Department (for Transport) concluded that there was a significant risk that the Bridge could represent poor value for money (Key Finding 2)
  • The Secretary of State formally directed his accounting officer to increase the Department’s pre-construction exposure for a limited period, citing wider benefits to the government’s agenda and the London economy (Key Finding 8)
  • When the Department made its decision to provide funding towards the Bridge, three of the four conditions set by the Chancellor as the basis on which the government would provide its funding had not been met (Key Finding 11)
  • There remains a significant risk that the project will not go ahead. (Key Finding 12)

As part of the investigation, letters requesting and making a ministerial direction from the Secretary of State for Transport have been published.  In the ministerial direction, the Minister (Patrick McCloughlin MP) stated:

"Your letter described the transport benefits of the Garden Bridge as quite limited, but I consider that the wider benefits to the government's agenda and to the London economy are significant, and not fully captured by the department's assessment.

"The Garden Bridge will become a key and iconic tourist attraction right in the heart of our capital city, helping the UK tourism industry to grow. It will also contribute to some of DfT's own policy objectives, including promoting walking and physical activity."

The area in which the Bridge is proposed already receives in excess of 20 million visitors a year.  It's not at all clear why public money should be spent on attracting more tourists here.

If the Minister wants our advice, as the largest organisation in the country promoting walking for health and leisure, we can supply a long list of projects that would deliver those benefits to UK taxpayers more effectively than a short, crowded bridge in an area already well-served by transport links.