Lawyers were paid nearly £3.5m to advise on a doomed project to build a footbridge covered in trees and flowers over the River Thames in central London, documents published by Transport for London (TfL) have revealed.

South of England firm BDB Pitmans (BDB) received the most money – around £2.6m in total. International firm Gowling WLG (£507,287) and City firm Macfarlanes (£208,401) were also among the highest billers.

Various counsel, including QCs and juniors, billed around £40,000 in total.

Legal bills were only a fraction of the overall costs of £53.5m abortive project, which also included millions spent on construction contracts and on designers. Taxpayers will foot most of the bill.

The ‘Garden Bridge’ project had been proposed since late 1990s but doubts crept in after it lost the support of London Mayor Sadiq Khan in April 2017. It was officially abandoned in August that year.

BDB was paid £626,477 for early stage advice including on the planning process and ‘protective measures’ and around £2m for charity law, employment and intellectual property advice.

At the time of the advice the firm was called Bircham Dyson Bell. It subsequently merged with Pitmans Law in September last year creating BDB Pitmans.

Gowling WLG provided advice on property, consents and asset protection while Macfarlanes gave specialist construction legal advice. City firms Eversheds Sutherland (then Eversheds), Pinsent Masons and Hogan Lovells also received much smaller sums as did Watson Farley & Williams.

The highest billing counsel were Douglas Edwards QC, (£10,098) and John McGee QC, (£11,520).