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Donors launch bid to recoup Garden Bridge money

‘Broken promises’ allegations at the heart of claim against the trust behind scrapped scheme

28 December, 2018 — By Tom Foot

How the Garden Bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, might have looked. Images: Arup

TRUSTEES of the scrapped Garden Bridge project are facing a legal challenge from wealthy donors, it has been revealed.

Architects’ Journal says the claim is based on alleged broken promises to return their money in the event the bridge was not built.

The £200million bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick and backed by former London mayor Boris Johnson, was scrapped last year by current mayor Sadiq Khan.

The move is expected to have cost the taxpayer £43million, although it is not clear how this money was spent. Private donors are said to be owed around £7million.

Solicitor Freeths, based in Mayfair, is representing one donor who claims to have given £250,000 on the condition a bench on the bridge would be named after him.

Christopher Clayton, a solicitor at the firm, told Architects’ Journal: “Freeths is investigating claims against the Garden Bridge Trust on behalf of clients who donated considerable sums of money on the basis that it would be returned in the event the project failed.”

The firm is hoping to bring a group action on behalf of them and other donors against the trust, which is currently attempting to wind itself up.

“We are keen to speak to any individuals who might have been affected in the same way and who may wish to join forces with us to form a group action against the trust,” said the lawyer.

Seven million pounds was donated on a “restricted” basis, namely it would be returned if the purpose of the donation couldn’t be fulfilled.

The trust’s chairman, Mervyn, Lord Davies, also thanked funders and supporters “for their ongoing support and patience”.

The trust is currently seeking £5.1million from Transport for London. But the mayor is seeking legal advice about whether TfL can avoid paying.

The Garden Bridge Trust said: “The trust has taken great care to ensure that the funds it has received have been correctly applied in accordance with the legal advice it has received. In all cases where the advice confirms funds as returnable under charity law, it is the intention and expectation of the trustees that they will be, and funders have been advised accordingly.”

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