Contacting Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

23 Jul 2016

Garden Bridge Trust staff-members are long used to forcing their project forwards against huge obstructions. Not only is there the massive, and exponentially growing, public opposition to what they want to do to the Thames, but they don’t have all the planning conditions signed off, are lacking the lease variation for the South Bank public park they wish to build a commercial unit over and the mayor still hasn’t signed off on underwriting of the £3.5m pa maintenance – which, if Sadiq stays true to his word of refusing to risk more public money, he won’t be doing so.

Then there is the Charity Commission inquiry into the GBT, the National Audit Office inquiry into the Department for Transport £30m funding, a mayoral review into the procurement, an audit by Ernst & Young (pdf) (who are sponsors of the bridge – so no conflict of interest there!) into the TfL procurement, the new report ripping apart their pathetic business plan and, last but not least, the Judicial Review over loss of public land.

All in all, with so much in the way of them delivering this private tourist attraction for their developer friends and entitled contacts, the signs are that they are panicking as realisation of their slow demise is dawning on them. This week they got their Chairman, Lord Davies of Abersoch, to write to the new Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, to plead for an extension of the deadline for £15m public funded underwriting of insurance to their project. I will pull apart the article in the increasingly irrelevant Evening Standard below, but first do see how you can help make sure this nail is hammered into the Garden Bridge’s coffin.

 

PLEASE WRITE TO CHRIS GRAYLING

You can email the Right Honourable Chris Grayling MP, Transport Secretary, using this email: chris.grayling.mp@parliament.uk

In your own words explain why you ask him not to give in to the pressure from the Garden Bridge Trust and to do the right thing to protect the heritage and environment as London, as well as protect public funding and trust in democratic process. Remind him that this is not a party political attack and that through MPs and Assembly Member there is opposition to the Garden Bridge from all parties

As well as the aforementioned inquiries and legal action you may also wish to mention:

The three independent reports into the development and massive history of fairly critical media coverage

The call from the RIBA for an investigation into the procurement

The meagre size of the ‘green’ on the bridge and the fact it isn’t green infrastructure

The concern over how the Garden Bridge Trust have spent all the public money

That it is private

The risk of a huge overspend with such a project and recent experience with having to pay over the odds for one of the other Boris Johnson projects, Heatherwick’s Routemaster buses

 

RIPPING APART THE EVENING STANDARD ARTICLE

Who decided the Garden Bridge is London’s “flagship”? If they’re looking for a ship to reference, I suggest they compare it to the Titanic, which Heatherwick says inspired his design.

 

They GBT keep repeating the £175m project but have still not made a statement over how delays, apparent engineering issues and legal action has affected the final figure, which many consider will be way, way higher.

The Olympics was (just about) delivered on time, but way over budget. Prior to that Britain has seen development after development complete late and over budget. The Garden Bridge Trust seem unable to even deliver a business plan where the numbers add up, let alone a massive concrete development.

 

An actor with a childish ambition who was introduced to a designer renowned for their networking abilities via an entitled connection then got her idea into the mayor’s office due to an old family friendship before a funding plan using vast amounts of public money alongside rich businesses looking for cheap advertising, tax reduction and image greenwashing was created. There are many characters in this tragedy of a story, but none who I could ever imagine being called an “entrepreneur”!

 

I don’t disagree that if built it would be “a very visible example” of what the UK stands for. Sadly, it means that “what the UK stands for” would be ecological damage, abuse of heritage, lack of communication with citizens, privatisation of public space, cronyism, the failure to respect democratic process and the many of the country paying for a luxury only a few entitled people want.

 

“Some”? That’s one hell of an understatement. Not a single element of his project has gone to plan or on time!

 

With the numerous political inquiries, legal action, public opposition, increasing expert critical questions, independent reports demolishing it, lack of planning conditions, lack of maintenance underwriting, a charity commission investigation I am not so sure that his scenario is “very unlikely”.

 

Strong progress on private fundraising? They appear not to have raised a single penny in ‘pledges’ (note, not actual cash in the bank, just ‘pledges’) in over a year. All that has changed is that some of their donors have changed from being named to now being ‘anonymous’. Good work!

 

A little presumptuous to say “we look forward to meeting him soon”, but would we expect anything else from these entitled and arrogant few who told me “it helps if you’re well connected”.

I hope that if indeed Chris Grayling meets the GBT, then he also agrees to meet representatives of Thames Central Open Spaces, Will Hurst of the Architects’ Journal who knows the project inside out, Assembly Members Caroline Pidgeon, Tom Copley, Sian Berry and Len Duvall who have diligently uncovered so much as well as experts including Walter Menteth, Dan Anderson and Ian Ritchie who have written three important reports into the development.

 

 

One huge question lingers – why did the GBT announce this in their own private Pravda the Evening Standard instead of send the letter quietly and work out of sight as they prefer? The reason that seems most likely is a desperate attempt to excite the public into passionately supporting their project, to create a buzz of support. Clearly it failed, because there’s not a single comment in support under the article, but there are some zingers, including:

 

 

Someone else noticed the fact nobody wants to give the GBT any money:

 

While a fair point about why Chris Grayling would be interested in a private tourist attraction with a queue for 2,500 people:

 

Someone else is expasperated with Sadiq Khan ignoring them:

 

And another does well to have their dig at Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Evening Standard and self-proclaimed “governor of the Garden Bridge” not be removed by the normally diligent comment moderators:

 

But this is the best and the person who wrote it should also be asked to make a personal presentation to Chris Grayling:

 


 

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