FALL OUT FROM THE HODGE INQUIRY

12 Apr 2017

Now a few days have passed since Dame Margaret Hodge published her report into the Garden Bridge, a document in which every sentence is loaded with vitriol, anger and disbelief at the procurement, management and machinations of all involved with the project, let’s step back and have a look at responses to it.

Obviously there has been huge media coverage, and plenty of “it has to be stopped, now” from Assembly Members and those who have been following the debacle closely. However, the extremely brief responses from those closely involved with the development are worth paying attention to first.

 

SADIQ KHAN

Sadiq was able to get his response in first with his letter to Margaret Hodge being published (PDF) at the same time as the report. In it he said:

Khan also reiterated that he would “not spend a penny more of taxpayers’ funds, for which I am responsible, on the Garden Bridge”, a statement that as an intelligent lawyer he will completely understand is not compatible with any suggestion he may sign a guarantee to underwrite the annual running costs of the bridge using TfL money.

Please send Sadiq an email asking him to take Margaret Hodge’s advice and NOT TO SIGN THE GARDEN BRIDGE GUARANTEE: mayor@london.gov.uk

 

GARDEN BRIDGE TRUST

The initial response from Chairman Lord Mervyn Davies was brief, to say the least. It was also slightly unbelievable in claiming they  were pleased to have received the report.

The final sentence is positively dripping in arrogance and suggests that they will not be falling on their sword any time soon. These trustees have too much to lose; respect in establishment circles, financial liability. I genuinely don’t think they care much if their bridge happens or not now, they just don’t want to lose face and be seen to be beaten by the ‘hoi polloi’.

Construction News has reported that the GBT are “to hold crunch talks with the Mayor” in which it will present a new business case to avoid collapse. It is desperate to bulldozer through against public opinion, financial advice, architectural opposition, political anger and environmental concern. All Trustees are acting completely recklessly and should be ashamed of their attitude and total disrespect for Londoners.

 

HEATHERWICK STUDIO

Heatherwick Studio have a longstanding habit of refusing to comment on anything, unless it’s part of a stage-managed cushy interview.

However, it’s a sign of the magnitude of the mess that even they make comment:

“We still believe in the immense public value the Garden Bridge will bring to London. We reasonably relied on the professionalism of public officials to ensure proper process was followed.”

This is hugely disingenuous. As Hodge indicates, Heatherwick was given preferential treatment for the procurement having been working with TfL and Johnson, holding “a significant number of meetings” before developing procurement options which “were intentionally developed to enable Heatherwick Studio to qualify”. Hodge also indicates that Heatherwick was even asked which of the three procurement strategies he would prefer before he replied stating which would be best for him and asking how they can “get things moving”.

For Heatherwick to be involved in everything up to this stage, take £2.6m of public money and then act innocent and blame TfL and “public officials” he had met with throughout is astonishing.

 

BORIS JOHNSON

Boris Johnson has remained totally silent – just as he did when invited by Margaret Hodge to talk.

 

COIN STREET COMMUNITY BUILDERS

CSCB have remained totally silent.

An FOI has been released in which Lord Davies of the GBT says, “I met with lain Tuckett, Group Director, and Dr Scott Rice, Chairman… CSCB confirmed that its Board of Trustees are committed to this project and clarified their position on a number of principal issues. CSCB accepted the importance of reaching agreement in the timeframe and agreed this was achievable.

The Hodge report made strong mention that the GBT did not engage with the local community on the South Bank and considered them two-faced when saying they couldn’t let CSCB be part of the project while they have representation on the board from the super-rich Northbank property agents.

Maybe it’s time for Iain Tuckett and CSCB to finally speak up on behalf of their local community and local councillors?

 

LAMBETH

Lambeth have remained totally silent.

Granted, the Hodge report didn’t discuss them – though they were met as part of her process – and they would argue that they were solely involved in the planning side of the development and thus have no comment to make.

However, this is a developing news story of massive importance which is happening in their borough, which will have huge repurcussions for their land, community and public perception if it was to start construction and go tits up. So one could expect them to make comment.

 

‘LOSING’ ARCHITECT FIRMS

The two firms, Marks Barfield and Wilkinson Eyre, who were invited to enter the procurement by TfL have both now spoken publicly. Jim Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre said:

While Marks Barfield didn’t hold back at all:

 

POLITICIANS

Local Councillors Jenny Mosley and Kevin Craig said they “wholeheartedly support the findings of the report. We have high hopes that the Mayor will implement the recommendations of the report, significantly to not provide the £3 million a year guarantee to the GBT and to carry out a full assessment of GLA/TfL controls recommended by Margaret Hodge’s report.”

From the London Assembly, Labour’s Tom Copley called it “the final nail in the coffin”, a phrase repeated by Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, who added “the mayor should put us out of our misery and pull the plug on this project.”

 

OPPONENTS

The Architects’ Journal gathered quotes from many who have been involved.

Michael Ball of Thames Central Open Spaces was scathing:

While Walter Menteth, procurement expert and architect, paid credit to those who did the legwork ahead of the Hodge report:

Architect Ian Ritchie raised some important issues:

I raised hope that once it’s all called off the mess of the Garden Bridge can be the start of a new way of dealing with architecture, the city and the public:

 

PRESS

There was a lot of media coverage, all of which is listed on this site. Even Pippa Crerar in the Evening Standard delivered coverage which wasn’t as pathetically biased in favour of her boss Evgeny Lebedev‘s pet project as her usual output.

BBC Transport Correspondent Tom Edwards, said:

Will Hurst, a journalist who has doggedly persued this throughout and whose work was credited by Margaret Hodge, wrote a withering summary in the Architects’ Journal, “A project born of shady deal-making and arrogance”:

 

Bizarrely, there was even an article published on the Talk Radio site titled “The Garden Bridge: 5 Reasons Why It’s Utterly Bonkers”. However, less than an hour after going up it was removed and an error message has replaced it. Excellent local news site SE1 suggested why:

This was on @talkRADIO site earlier – now returns an “access denied” error – any link to Sky’s £5m sponsorship deal for #gardenbridge? pic.twitter.com/LppMmH5R14

— London SE1 (@se1) April 7, 2017

 

Please drop him an email asking him NOT TO SIGN THE GARDEN BRIDGE GUARANTEE and asking him to meet with TCOS, opponents and experts of the development.

mayor@london.gov.uk

 

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