The Garden Bridge In The House Of Commons

7 Sep 2016

Kate Hoey MP has just finished her End Of Day Adjournment Debate considering the risk to London of the Garden Bridge in the House of Commons. She didn’t hold back. She strongly criticised TfL, the current Mayor Sadiq Khan, Joanna Lumley, Coin Street Community Builders, the Evening Standard and the Department for Transport.

She also spent a long time congratulating those involved in shedding light on the project, including opponents such as Thames Central Open Spaces, the GLA, journalists such as Will Hurst of Architects’ Journal and authors of independent reports Dan Anderson and Walter Menteth.

The harshest words and stinging critique, however, was saved for the Garden Bridge Trust who have “treated local views with disdain”. During her powerful speech she called for all current donors to the development to consider withdrawing their support and funds.

 

There were not many MPs in the House of Commons, but don’t let you think this political moment was not important and will not resonate well beyond the chamber. Such debates as this, at the end of the working day, do not attract many members normally, but the comments will be listened to. And it should be pointed out that there were a number of well considered statements of support for Kate Hoey’s stance from those who were present.

 

ON LOCAL OPPOSITION

Credit was given to Thames Central Open Spaces, who have been fighting the development since 2014 and Hoey raised an interesting comparison with the London Eye stating the architects, Marks Barfield, spent time to talk to the local community, it was privately funded and set up a trust for the local area from its profit.

However, she added, “The Garden Bridge Trust have behaved so differently. They have treated local views with disdain.”

She also spoke a lot about the loved public green space and mature trees which will be destroyed. “The site is dearly loved by locals and visitors, lost to a huge private retail unit.” Bob Stewart MP also spoke sincerely about concern for the important “avenue of trees”.

In good news, later on it was announced that Lord Ahmed would meet with local Councillor Kevin Craig and visit the site, which is an Asset of Community Value.

 

ON JOURNALISM & INVESTIGATIONS

Kate praised the work of Will Hurst and the Architects’ Journal, also crediting Hannah Barnes of Newsnight, Peter Walker of the Guardian and Theo Usherwood of LBC.

However, she was damning of the Evening Standard, calling it “the unofficial mouthpiece of the Garden Bridge Trust” and noting the very close relationship between Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the paper, and the GBT.

Kate praised Freedom of Information, saying they had helped shed light on the project. When Andrew Jones MP, speaking for the DfT, said that the numerous inquiries was evidence that there was no secrecy of the project she pointed out that if it wasn’t for concerned citizens and FoI requests then these inquiries would not have been called for.

 

ON THE DESTROYED VIEWS

As you all know, there are far too many issues with the Garden Bridge to squeeze into even a 20 minute parliamentary speech. However, she did mention the world important views off Waterloo Bridge that would be lost to the Garden Bridge’s arrogance.

Bob Stewart MP spoke up for them, saying “I am increasingly against the Garden Bridge project. Will that beautiful view made famous by Canaletto be ruined by this bridge.

Hoey responded, “Yes, it is one of the most terrible things. The views from Waterloo Bridge of St Pauls will be ruined, without a doubt.”

 

ON THE PROCUREMENT & BUSINESS PLAN

Kate Hoey covered the procurement of the Garden Bridge thoroughly, citing the report by Project Compass. She covered the way that Heatherwick Studio did not fulfil the questions asked of the tender for “broad options” but was given top marks regardless.

Importantly, she also went on to consider the Arup procurement which followed. It was this one which saw £8.5m of public money be initially pledged, and which Heatherwick was immediately subcontracted onto.

She discussed the “single person” who awarded this contract to Arup, Richard de Cani. She said this is “the same Richard de Cani who we now know used to work for Arup, the same Arup that then won the contract for £8.5m. Where Richard de Cani has now gone back to work. Arup seem to like former TfL staff, as they have also appointed [former deputy mayor for transport] Isobel Dedring, who was at almost all the meetings directly involved with Thomas Heatherwick [before the procurement].”

“It could be a coincidence, of course, but most fair-minded people will think this is very strange. There’s a real question mark over the procedure.”

Bizarrely, in his response for the DfT, Andew Jones MP stated “the procurement has been reviewed and no significant faults were found with it.” This is either a barefaced lie or evidence he hasn’t bothered to do his homework, as the GLA report found serious faults.

 

Dan Anderson of Fourth Street was credited for his report into the project’s business plan and said it was “recommended reading” and Hoey quoted from it twice, including this paragraph:

“It is worryingly worth noting that the Garden Bridge Trust has a perverse incentive to spend money as quickly and not as efficiently or cost-effectively as possible. That is, the Trust has a powerful incentive to ensure that it reaches a ‘point of no return’ (in financial terms) as quickly as it can so that planning, land acquisition and/or legal challenges do not ultimately thwart the project. One can only assume that this is a large part of the explanation as to how such an extraordinary sum of money could have been spent before construction has even started.”

 

ON DONORS

She raised the issue of Ernst & Young being the local auditors for the GLA and appointed by TfL to look at the Garden Bridge Procurement. She said, “E&Y are announced as donating £500,000 to the GBT and are represented on the board.”

She raised concerns over anonymous donors, stating “We have this list of donors. It’s remarkable how many of them are anonymous, why would they want to be anonymous? Some I think are very strange? Is it real money, or a pledge? It’s all smoke and mirrors.”

Later in her speech, Kate Hoey called out to all current Garden Bridge donors to pull out. “I call to all the donors to ask if they want to be attached to this. I think their reputation will be damaged. If i was a trustee of a body thinking of giving to the Garden Bridge Trust, I would think again!”

 

ON THE NATIONAL CONCERN

Kate Hoey stated early on that “This is not just a local issue, nor a London issue. It’s a national issue.”  As has been mentioned on this site, an increasing number of national MPs are raising huge concerns with how the Garden Bridge was awarded public finding without much effort while critical transport schemes in their constituencies, at far less cost but with real change, remain pipe dreams.

Comment was made from the floor, principilly by Diana Johnson, MP for Hull North.

 

ON STOPPING THE BRIDGE

Much reference was made to “when” the Garden Bridge is stopped, not “if” and Hoey was demanding answers and public compensation when it happens.

“It is a tourist attraction dressed up as tourist infrastructure, when other tourist attractions have done it with private money. Who has sold us down the river? This Garden Bridge project must be stopped by someone, and i want to find a way that when this project fails, as i think it must, we get some money back.”

Kate reiterated a recent post on this site calling for those who can stop the Garden Bridge to do so immediately and stop passing the buck.

She said there had been a “cosy cartel” including Lambeth Council, who had “proceeded [with the Garden Bridge] without any policy argument.”. Hoey added, “Lambeth could stop this project tomorrow if they wish.”

She went on, “Coin Street Community Builders should have said no from the beginning. They could stop this project tomorrow if they wish.”

“The Mayor of London has not been good enough. He could stop this project tomorrow if he wished.”

Of all the parties she has met regarding the bridge, including the above, she said “I know that most of them all want the bridge to stop, but none want to be the one to press the button.”

 

 

 

SUPPORT FOR THE GARDEN BRIDGE

There were two voices of support for the development. One, quite bizarrely, was from Steve Pound, MP for Ealing North, who repeatedly interrupted to state it was “iconic” and said it would help “spirits soar”.

However, the minister speaking on behalf of the Department for Transport, Andrew Jones MP, seemed far less convinced as he defended the funding. He did use the standard words “iconic”, “unique” and “exciting” but couldn’t have looked less sincere if he tried. When asked direct questions he deflected, stating “the process up to now has not been a process I have been involved in.”

Diana Johnson MP asked why the Garden Bridge got funding so easily while her railway electrification (which she added was 100% privately funded, but needing a rubber stamp from the DfT) had sat on the desk for two years. Strangely, Andrew Jones responded, “Some projects are very complex and it takes some projects a very long time to get out of the first phase into the construction stage.”

Clearly not the Garden Bridge.

 

But, Kate Hoey had a more rational answer, stating “Maybe the difference is that they don’t have Joanna Lumley living in their area!”

 

WHAT NOW?

This is a key stage in the decline and fall of Garden Bridge Trust. Please write to your MP and ask them to act, whether they are in London or not. You can use writetothem.com to easily send them a message outlining your concerns, emphasising this is not party-political and asking them to watch the coverage of Kate Hoey’s debate, read it up on Hansard, check this website and the TCOS one as well as the long media coverage listed here.

 


 

SHARE THIS ON
Facebook Twitter

 


YOU CAN HELP FIGHT THE GARDEN BRIDGE BY
SUPPORTING THE JUDICIAL REVIEW, SIMPLY
DONATE HERE

FOR MORE WAYS OF HELPING SEE
THE TAKE ACTION PAGE