THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

25 Dec 2016

 

 

12 ENTITLED TRUSTEES

The Garden Bridge Trust are headed up by twelve Trustees, each carefully picked not from the local residential community but from a well networked strata of the corporate, financial and political good. And Joanna Lumley.

They include:

Lord Mervyn Davies
Entitled Chairman

The Labour peer who has recently become the spokesperson for the Trust as they face increasing pressures, including when he appeared on Newsnight and dropped the information about increased costs and lost donors. His political connections have been useful for his development, but it didn’t stop his fellow peers vocally criticising it back in 2014.

 

Alistair Subba Row
Entitled Friend of Developers & Property

As a high-end commercial real estate advisor to immensely wealthy corporations and investors on the two sites the Garden Bridge would land, Subba Row has huge personal commercial reasons for pushing the project through. It is entirely beneficial to his clients, and consequently his business, to use public finances and land to bump up the massive sale and rental value of the penthouses, offices and consumer units each side.

 

Roland Rudd
Entitled Chair of Communications

There is no doubt that the Trust have recently been calling on Rudd’s skills as a corporate crisis management expert of late. As charities are not (yet) subject to the same Freedom of Information as political entities we can only wonder if he has contacted his sister, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, to help in any way. Formerly a journalist with The Times who have recently been promoting the Garden Bridge totally uncritically.

 

Clare Foges
Entitled Communications Helper

Former speechwriter for Boris Johnson, and then for David Cameron in No. 10, Foges also has close links to the Conservative Party and The Times newspaper, where she has a regular column. It can only be entirely coincidental that her newspaper employee repeatedly promotes her Garden Bridge whenever they can.

 

Julie Carlyle
Entitled Chair of Finance & Audits

Julie works at Ernst & Young, founding donors of the project and, coincidentally, auditors of TfL who recently carried out an audit into TfL’s internal report into their procurements.

 

Joanna Lumley
Entitled Dreamer

It was actor Joanna Lumley’s idea and desire to recreate her childhood wilderness memories in the centre of London, coupled with her friendship with the then Mayor Boris Johnson, which led to the whole debacle beginning. Heatherwick claims she has been a member of his design studio since 2004, but nobody is really sure what she does there except lend her contacts and connections.

 

These are amongst the twelve Trustees who, in the words of Garden Bridge Trust Executive Director Bee Emmott in a recent Guardian article, “have to decide whether the project is viable, and if it’s prudent to keep going and spending money” and “have to reassess whether the project is ultimately viable or not.”

 

Though I am not as entitled or connected as the twelve I’ll give my assistance for free.

It’s not viable.

 

11 SILENT PIPERS

Being a private development the Garden Bridge Trust can set a long list of rules for those they accept onto their property. Despite their project demanding vast sums of public money, it causing huge damage to public heritage views and it destroying a public park you will only be allowed on the bridge if you agree to and abide by their rules.

One of these rules is that nobody is allowed to:

 

Now, this may seem innocuous but it gets to the heart of how privately owned public spaces (POPS) are taking over the city, and the fact that they may appear public but restrict citizens from acting in a free way has huge repercussions for how we design our city going forwards. Who are you to say that I, as a citizen of London, paying my taxes and being socially responsible, cannot take a tin whistle out of my pocket and play a tune as I walk to work? It represents a total corporate control of the civics which is turning us from citizens to subjects and is, in effect, another process of the historic “enclosure” acts which removed public rights, freedom and access to shared, social space.

 

Last year Sian Berry, then campaigning to be London Mayor and now a London Assembly Member, along with others including Will Self, Mark Thomas, Bob & Roberta Smith, took part in Space Probe Alpha to highlight the real risk to public civic life that this increase in POPS has. This film shows what she has to say:

 

Another present was academic geographer Bradley Garrett who writes for the Guardian on the matter, including this article stating:

“when space is controlled, and especially when the public is unclear about what the legal or acceptable boundaries of activity are, we tend to police ourselves, to monitor our behaviour and to limit our interactions, especially after embarrassing confrontations with security”.

 

The Garden Bridge would link up two other quasi-public areas, the Northbank BID and the Southbank BID. A BID is a ‘Business Improvement District’ in which local corporations join forces to create a management system of the area which can lead to other authorities reliquishing a certain level of control. As such they create spaces which their businesses demand, which is different to what a city demands, and they are managed with a certain community, consumer and audience in mind.

The well-connected trustees of the Garden Bridge (including Alistair Subba-Row, a real-estate advisor to high-end property on the north and south bank) sought to position themselves within these two BIDs straight away, and by being members of these partnerships all with the same consumerist and controlling interests, they would minimise democratic discussion about their scheme’s merits and smooth their corporate and political path to deliver their development.

As a BID manager says in a report (PDF) by writer Anna Minton, “It’s nice to make it clean but we’re not doing it for the community agenda but for the bottom line. It’s all about the bottom line – we’re a commercial organisation which retailers invest in to improve the retail environment”.

 

As we give over our city design to corporate developers with visible or vested financial interests in maximising land value, consumerism and rent return we are no longer designing a city with citizenship, social cohesion, public commons or shared experiences in mind. We are creating a corporate-state, and the Garden Bridge which would have sponsored planting, private security, managed queue systems and a long list of rules and regulations is

It may be that you look at the full list, below, and think “well, most of those are sensible, I wouldn’t want to do that”, but there are laws of the land which citizens abide by for organising our social spaces. To create these quasi public spaces, using public money to remove public access, rights and ownership, we lose our ownership of the city, of ourselves and our trust in a shared society.

 

10 SECURITY GUARDS

The Garden Bridge is privately owned and offers no legal right of way. Like any privately owned public space there will be different levels of private policing, from ‘visitor hosts’ in a friendly uniform who smile as they great you and advice on your expected queuing wait to get on, through to private security and then to the invisible forces – the wifi monitoring system and CCTV linked to anonymous people in a room somewhere.

The wifi monitoring system is to be used for the crowd control management. Nearly everyone now carries a mobile phone and these will be tracked by sensors across the bridge so that the ‘visitor hosts’ know how many people to keep kettled in the queues at each end and if they need to install a contraflow system on the bridge itself using pedestrian barriers and temporary infrastructure. Though similar wifi monitoring software has previously raised serious questions about snooping and privacy.

Both north and south sides of the river will have a “Disney Style” tensile barrier queue system. If average the ‘dwell time’ on the bridge hits 30 minutes then the ‘visitor hosts’ move into ‘elevated operations’ mode and will implement the queue system. Any longer average dwell time than this and the queues build up so you may well be waiting 40 minutes or more to use the bridge. ‘Visitor hosts’ will in this instance be advising people to leave and come back later.

Remember this had £60m of public transport money.

 

There are extensive ‘conditions of entry‘ to use the Garden Bridge if which some are plain bizarre. You cannot enjoy a glass of wine on the bridge (unless you’re a guest of one of the private parties when it will be closed to us public), “use language which publicly intimates that any article, commodity, facility or service can be obtained on the Garden Bridge or elsewhere”, “take part in any assembly, gathering, performance, rally, procession or gathering of any kind”

There will be heavy CCTV coverage and the ‘visitor hosts’ will “make use of a smart tablet whilst on patrol” with access to these CCTV image, with “HD Smart CCTV” at the two entrance/exit areas. They may also be wearing a body camera, as if the culture of surveillance needed increasing. They are also legally allowed to demand any member of public’s name and address as well as seize and dispose of your property if they have reasonable ground you have contravened one of the conditions of entry. Part of their job description is also, ominously, “gathering of information and intelligence” and “personal and property searches”.

The Garden Bridge Trust state they are able “to conduct an inspection of property
being carried by a person seeking to gain entry and if necessary to undertake a wand search of their person followed by a ‘pat-down’ and/or visual inspection of outer clothing which has been unbuttoned by the person at the request of a Visitor Host”. So, in these heightened security times I can imagine the fun experience of queueing to be ‘patted down’ by a visitor host simply to cross a publicly funded bridge.

 

The planting on the bridge is being artificially clipped – most planting will be below 1m in height while the tree canopies are being trimmed to start from 2m height. This leaves a visible clear band across the whole of the bridge, purely for the private security to monitor everyone at one time. The other effect of this is that at all times you will be very aware of the other 2,500 people on the bridge. As you stand in your 0.8 metres squared bit of hard paving you will at no time feel like you are having a relaxing stroll through an English garden.

 

The bridge is even designed to present itself as a private, invite-only space. The management plan states:

“access control through the use of gates, walls, and other physical obstacles together with the use of other symbolic barriers such as signage will emphasise the reality of a Bridge boundary and draw a distinction with surrounding open spaces. During those periods when the bridge is closed, physical security measures will reinforce the fact that this is a protected environment.”

 

Or, if you live in Joanna Lumley’s head, the Garden Bridge will be “a place with no noise or traffic where the only sounds will be birdsong and bees buzzing and the wind in the trees and, below, the steady rush of water” and “a peaceful way of crossing London in peace and quietness, this would be a place where you could maybe slow down, hear birds singing, hear leaves rustling, get a little bit of calm, take the heat out of the situation”. Yes, Joanna, of course.

 

9 SHARPENED CHAINSAWS

The Garden Bridge is not green and countless green organisations and experts have spoken out against the ecological damage it will cause.

The widely enjoyed and photographed South Bank avenue of London Plane trees will be removed. Lambeth’s South Bank Conservation Area Statement (PDF) describes the area as a public space of national importance and that the trees have high amenity value” and “forming an integral part of the area’s character”.

This section of the promenade, called Queen’s Walk, was created by Coin Street Community Builders in 1983 as an early part of their community development. The open space it offered and pedestrian connection to complete the walkway was a genuine gift to Londoners and an important step of their early community work. The original South Bank Plane trees were planted as a memorial to the WWII dead, and by extending the footpath, forming an avenue of trees and constructing a public park Coin Street extended this most poetic and loved way of remembering those who passed.

But the Garden Bridge Trust chainsaws are sharpened to destroy the avenue. However, Coin Street Community Builders have still not given permission for their park to be built over. Why not ask Iain Tuckett, their Secretary and also founding member who fought to create this public park for all, to make sure Coin Street do the right thing?

Email him HERE?

 

8 FLIGHTS OF STAIRS

Normally, when something infrastructural like a bridge is designed, it is a deeply considered architectural object which sits gently within the urban context it is designed for. However, as the Garden Bridge was designed for a separate location entirely and simply plonked, like any other Heatherwick model upgraded from 1:200 scale to 1:1, in the middle of a world heritage site it doesn’t have a great relationship with the river banks it sits upon.

This is no more obvious than when you consider the sheer number of steps needed to get on and off this most inelegant of impositions. Over 120 steps are needed if you are intending to use the Garden Bridge to get from the South Bank to Temple station, making a mockery of any backwards-engineered proposition the development is for transport or pedestrian connectivity.

Think about the light touch that the Millennium Bridge has as it sits upon the riverbanks, and then see how the Garden Bridge takes over the landscape it suggests to be a link between: on the north bank it attacks an architecturally listed underground station and constructs a concrete overpass on top of the Victoria Embankment, on the south side it demolishes a community park to offer up a massive commercial unit which doubles up as, on its roof, a corporate entertainment space and a terrace for 2,500 person queue.

This bridge will save no more than 25 seconds on a walk from Waterloo Station to northern side of the city, it was never proposed as a transport solution or a useful piece of of urban design, instead it plonks itself aggressively in the site it presumes to own, with difficult access for anyone disabled, with a bicycle or who can’t use the eight flights of stairs needed to cross from South Bank to Temple.

It isn’t a transport bridge. As Heatherwick himself said, it would be a success if “someone went on and spent the day, and left and never went to the other side at all”. So that TfL and the Dft decided it was worthwhile of over £60m of public transport money while never relating to any evidenced plan for walking, cycling or urban connectivity – and at the same time as much needed river crossings with genuine regeneration and community benefits are obvious – is incredible and disgusting.

 

7 STRESSED ACCOUNTANTS

Today is the 31st December. To most people a day of celebration and looking forwards, but to the Garden Bridge Trust a day of stress and trepidation. For today is the day when they have to file their most recent accounts.

They had been due to file them by the end of July, but two days before the deadline they applied for a 5 months, reported in the FT at the time as “Garden Bridge avoids collapse by extending its accounting year“.

Well, that five months is up now and there are no indications that the GBT finances have miraculously shot upwards – it has still not raised around half its private finance, they still haven’t managed to created a workable business plan relating to future financing, and for all we know even more donors have jumped from what appears to be a sinking ship. Last week the Executive Director, Bee Emmott, said that fundraising was very hard and that it was up to the Trustees to decide if they wanted to stop the project.

The GBT may have already filed their accounts, but my money is on a group of very stressed accountants trying to pull some numbers together today before 2017 begins – and when published publicly it will help us understand where all the money has gone!

 

60 MILLION POUNDS

When first mooted, after the sham procurements, it was misleadingly suggested that the Garden Bridge would cost £60m, with not a penny from public finances. Roll on three and a half years and the regular increasing costs of the development see the total currently standing at £185m of which £60m is from the public transport purse. This cost is only likely to rise and as the NAO stated it is likely that the public would be called on to bail out the Garden Bridge Trust for both any (growing) funding gap as well as potentially over £3m a year for maintenance costs.

For comparison, our world important National Parks have suffered a 40% cut in real-term funding over the last five years, local news site SE1 noticed that the new Guys’ cancer unit’s construction cost was £90m while a whole load of world famous bridges have come in at less cost, including the Millennium footbridge which would cost around £34m in today’s money.

Compared to other transport schemes the Garden Bridge is astonishingly expensive, as this graph shows – the Garden Bridge being in red.

 

5 INQUIRIES

The Garden Bridge has been or is under scrutiny from five probes:

1 – Dame Margaret Hodge Review

Sadiq Khan asked Dame Margaret Hodge MP to lead a wide-ranging review into the project’s handling by TfL, the GLA and other authorities. Hodge has been receiving a lot of evidence for this and is expected to publish early in 2017. The GBT said through gritted teeth that they welcomed the review, though more recently in a Guardian article they suggested that fundraising had stalled (not that it really had pace in the first place!) due to the Hodge review leaving the project hanging in the balance.

2 – National Audit Office:

The NAO found that should the project proceed, which isn’t guaranteed, then the Garden Bridge Trust could ask the taxpayer for more money, because “The pattern of behaviour outlined in this report is one in which the Trust has repeatedly approached the government to release more of its funding for pre-construction activities when it encounters challenges.” Read the NAO report HERE.

3 – The Charity Commission:

The CC are still considering whether to launch a full inquiry into the Garden Bridge Trust following a evidence from Kate Hoey MP and others. Kate said that people “are concerned that the Garden Bridge project is ‘hiding behind’ its status as a Registered Charity in order to prevent the transparency and accountability that would normally be required of a public infrastructure project of this size. There is a concern that there may be a scenario of serious non-compliance by the GBT that has the potential to damage its reputation and/or the reputation of charities generally, as well as the reputation of the Commission itself, if this is not looked into.”

4 – GLA Design Procurement Inquiry:

The GLA Oversight Committee spent many months investigating the procurement of the Garden Bridge, resulting in a report which stated there had been “significant failures of process throughout” the procurements, concluding that “the objectivity and fairness of this procurement process was adversely affected by these actions”. They also stated that the internal TfL review of the procurement had been changed from the first version to “reduce or soften criticism of how senior managers conducted the procurement”. This led Sadiq Khan, then standing to be mayor, to proclaim it was “a whitewash designed to cover up incompetence” and called for the project to be shelved.

5 – Ernst & Young Review of TfL Procurement Audit:

TfL asked its own external auditor, E&Y, to review their own procurement review. They also “identified a number of issues considering the evaluation and analysis of the tenders in both contracts” and that “the evaluation process… did not follow TfL procurement policy and procedure in a number of instances”. The executive summary (PDF) seemed to water down some of the body content of the audit, which included highlighting that the same person, Richard de Cani who went on to join Arup, single handedly judged the two Garden Bridge procurements (then lost the notes) and edited the procurement review. But is it unexpected that the Executive Summary was watered down when it was commissioned by the party under investigation and carried out by a major Garden Bridge donor who are represented on the board of Trustees?

 

4 RUINED VIEWS

The Garden Bridge will destroy four of the world’s finest urban vistas: looking east from Waterloo Bridge, looking northeast from the South Bank towards St. Pauls, looking northwest from the South Bank towards Somerset House and looking west from Blackfriars Bridge towards Waterloo Bridge.

In a week that Sadiq Khan has pledged to protect the sightlines of St. Paul’s Cathedral it’s worth remembering the excellent letter by Oliver Caroe (PDF), Surveyor to the Fabric of the cathedral, to the planning inquiry. It said:

“There will be irreversible impacts on some of the most iconic views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, to the detriment of our capital city and the position of the Cathedral within the urban and maritime context of London. Once harmed, these views will not be recovered.”

He goes on to question why the Garden Bridge Trust or other bodies never contacted the cathedral for their opinion, and adds to others questioning how English Heritage offered this most contentious and dominant project so much less scrutiny than other less aggressive schemes. In fact, now that English Heritage has restructured it could be a good time to ask the new organisation, Historic England, their opinion on the Garden Bridge…

 

3 FRENCH BUILDERS

On their website, the Garden Bridge Trust claim:

The operations jobs will largely be private security and office management (for a bridge!). As for the construction jobs, there may be a few Workfare positions but the bridge would actually be pre-fabricated in Italy by Cimolai and constructed on site by a French Contractor, Bouyges. It isn’t clear where these hundreds of construction jobs will come from or how they will benefit any of the taxpayers funding the private development.

The Garden Bridge Trust proudly signed a construction contract in March 2016 after which TfL’s Richard de Cani lobbied the DfT to ensure that this triggered £7m of public money immediately for the Garden Bridge Trust – this is after he had accepted a job with Arup, the engineering firm he had awarded the design contract to.

How the GBT decided they were in a position to sign these contracts risking huge amounts of public money, and how TfL and the DfT offered such little oversight to permit it is a question still unanswered.

A few months after signing it the GBT but the contract on standby – which some may read as evidence that they only signed awarded it to Bouyges & Cimolai in order to keep their troubled development afloat with an injection of public cash.

 

2 FIXED PROCUREMENTS

The Garden Bridge never had a design competition, nobody even asked for a design. TfL set up a small procurement for a feasibility study for options and ideas of a hypothetical Thames crossing, created small so as to avoid European regulations. Heatherwick ‘won’ this even though experts state he should have been disqualified for not answering the brief which was to “examine the potential for a footbridge… considering a number of different locations and taking into account a range of constraints in the area…. and test broad options”.

Instead of answering this brief in any way Heatherwick simply presented his singular vision, singular location, Garden Bridge which had already been promoted and developed alongside TfL and Boris Johnson in secret. Even TfL admitted the procurement was “neither open nor objective“.

Immediately after this small £60k procurement, TfL then created a second, much larger one, to build the Garden Bridge. This was awarded to Arup, already working with Heatherwick and TfL in secret on the project, who then received nearly £10m of public money. Richard di Cani  judged both procurements single handedly and then moved to Arup alongside Isabel Dedring, former deputy Mayor for Transport, who also helped gift Heatherwick the project. Corruption?

Both the GLA (PDF) and Project Compass published damning reports into the procurements while experts have called them “legally defective throughout” and “illegal, basically“. And new information still comes forward, we just found out that De Cani even persuaded the DfT to release funding to the project after he had agreed to join Arup but while he was still working for TfL – conflict of interest?

 

AND A BRIDGE FOR JOANNA LUMLEY

The whole Garden Bridge project wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Joanna Lumley‘s chumocracy connections and collusion with Boris Johnson, who she had known since he was four years old, so central London could be home to a private memorial to herself.

 


 

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