Boris Johnson has raised eyebrows by suggesting that he does not know "the point" of a London bridge on which he is spending £30 million of taxpayers' money to build.
The London Mayor made the surprise admission about the Garden Bridge project, a tree-lined pedestrian bridge between the South Bank and Victoria Embankment, in a speech to property industry bigwigs at the MIPIM conference in Cannes, France.
"Later this year, we will go in for planning permission for an absolutely beautiful, stunningly beautiful project. A new Garden Bridge. I don't quite know what the point of this thing is," he said.
The London Mayor insisted that the £150 million bridge, which is being built with £30 million of government money and £30 million matched by Transport for London, which Johnson oversees as chairman, would "transform" the local area. The bridge was devised by actress Joanna Lumley and designed by Thomas Heatherwick.
Members of the London Assembly's Transport Committee, which scrutinises the Mayor's actions, reacted with bemusement to Johnson's "strange" remarks.
Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, told HuffPostUK: “This is the latest strange comment by the Mayor over the Garden Bridge.
“As the Mayor has agreed to spend at least £30 million of London taxpayers' money on this project he should at least ensure that it operates like a proper bridge.
"At the very least cyclists should be able to use it as a safe route across the Thames. It would be appalling if so much public money was spent on a new Thames crossing which totally excluded cyclists."
The London Mayor stated in a mayoral decision last September that the Garden Bridge would be funded "by third parties" with taxpayers' contribution limited to the costs of planning consent.
"TfL has no budget to build or maintain the bridge," it made clear.
Labour AM Valerie Shawcross told HuffPostUK that the project "would fail any Treasury cost benefit test as a transport scheme", adding: "It’s a public art project really!"
Green committee member Darren Johnson, who is chair of the London Assembly, said: “A Thames garden bridge is a great idea and it is brilliant that Londoners will get a new pedestrian river crossing. But it is important that there is a proper cost-benefit analysis carried out on this project.”
“A lot of public money is being invested in this idea and the Mayor has a woeful track record in securing value for money on his other vanity projects such as his New Bus and the cable car.”