Garden Bridge fracas: The problems with the bridge and the Trust’s response

Everything on the Garden Bridge is lovely, says Garden Bridge Trust

Last month London Loves Business published a broad ranging article outlining a considerable number of problems with the proposed Garden Bridge that is planned to span the Thames in central London.

We collated research, information, opinions and concerns from various media groups, organisations and individuals to compile a list of 26 issues with the bridge.

We also thoroughly explored the procurement process, which has been described by the GLA oversight committee chair as the “dodgy design procurement process”.

It was not the most complimentary piece we have ever published, and unsurprisingly the charity behind the project, the Garden Bridge Trust was not thrilled about it.

In media circles the charity has gained a reputation as a remarkably aggressive defender of the project given the widely reported problems with the bridge’s procurement process and public cost.

Prior to publication of the piece, we contacted the Garden Bridge Trust to let them know the essence of what we were collating, and to offer them the chance to provide a comment on the procurement process, which they did.

In the past the trust has been quick to pounce not just on anything it deems to be inaccurate (much of which is a matter of interpretation), but also on any criticism of the project, which is why our article contains so many links to third party websites reinforcing what we have written in the article.

Nonetheless, following publication, London Loves Business received an email that said there were “many factual inaccuracies” in our piece.

We take any inaccuracies very seriously at London Loves Business, and we are delighted to put the record straight where we may have fallen short.

A few “corrections”

The Garden Bridge Trust apparently has no problem with anything we highlighted in the article about the flagrant cronyism among those responsible for the procurement process for the bridge – things like how the key players – Joanna Lumley, Boris Johnson, George Osborne, Arup Group, Thomas Heatherwick – knew each other beforehand, and nor did they report having a problem with us pointing out that normal procedures had been bypassed in order to get the taxpayer to fund a significant part of the bridge.

They did not contest those points. No. Their foremost correction is that we wrote that Evening Standard Owner Evgeny Lebedev is a Governor of the Bridge.

Where did we get this apparently incorrect information? From Lebedev’s own paper, where it was clearly written in an article published at the end of 2013. The article says: “The reason everyone has come to believe in the bridge — including the owner of the Evening Standard, Evgeny Lebedev, who has agreed to be a governor of the scheme — is the persuasive capabilities of [Thomas] Heatherwick himself.”

But according to the Garden Bridge Trust, “Mr Lebedev owner of the Evening Standard, is not a “Governor” of the Garden Bridge Trust.  He has no formal position with the Trust and is an independent supporter of the project.”

So apologies for that. We just hope somebody has informed Lebedev.

Flipping the bird

The second complaint the Garden Bridge Trust levelled at our article was that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds does not oppose the bridge, as we said it did.

The trust points us to a clarification from the RSPB, which they put out after an initial statement that read: “Londoners will not be gaining a new, wildlife rich habitat and, consequently, the bridge will not gain RSPB backing.”

Their latest statement (published on the Garden Bridge Trust website) is hardly enthusiastic however, and now says: “We have expressed concerns that opportunities for biodiversity gain could be missed or not optimised, but articles suggesting that we ‘condemn’ the project are inaccurate.”

Apologies for missing that update, and congratulations to the Garden Bridge Trust for winning the neutrality of the RSPB.

The trust also points out that social gatherings are not banned on the bridge as we wrote. Apologies for this mistake.

Nonetheless, on the Garden Bridge Trust website, it does say: “Larger groups of organised tours will be encouraged to contact staff in advance, so they can get advice on the best times to visit and how to plan their trip.” This sounds positively welcoming.

Everything is lovely

Finally, they take issue with our 24th point, in which we wrote: “According to the Ecologist Magazine, it delivers no benefits to London’s wildlife or environment”.

In their email the Garden Bridge Trust advises us to read “the follow up” Ecologist article. The title of this so-called follow up article, and no, we’re not making this up, is: “Everything in the Garden Bridge is lovely!

But wait, who is the author of this stunningly complimentary article? None other than Bee Emmott – the executive director of… the Garden Bridge Trust!

TfL links

In addition to irritating the Garden Bridge Trust, we have also irritated some people at Transport for London.

Here is our offending paragraph:

“Richard de Cani is the senior official at Transport for London who oversaw all of the procurement process involved in awarding the contract to project manager Arup and Heatherwick.

“Since supplying Heatherwick and Arup Group with the contract, worth £60,000, de Cani has now accepted a job at er, Arup Group!”

TfL contacted London Loves Business and said: “Richard has worked at TfL for 17 years and has been involved in hundreds of procurements.  Any suggestion of improper involvement in either procurement contract for the Garden Bridge is completely unfounded.

“Richard was not involved in the scoring of the technical procurement, which was awarded to Arup.  Once Arup was shortlisted, Richard was part of a wide-ranging panel that took the decision to award the contract to Arup.  

“We are satisfied that the procurement processes for the Garden Bridge were fair and transparent. An extensive and thorough review was undertaken by a separate audit team, which concluded the procurement for the Garden Bridge was acceptable in relation to the selection of bidders.”

TfL may be satisfied that the procurement processes were fair and transparent, but plenty of other people are not – including MPs and the GLA oversight committee. We invite readers to take a look at our original article that presents the timeline of how the bridge’s procurement process went ahead.

Social Bookmarks