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Garden Bridge Fallout Continues

Monday, December 18, 2017

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The London Assembly has summoned former London Mayor Boris Johnson to answer questions related to the ill-fated Garden Bridge plan, citing the fact that Johnson, an early bridge proponent, did not participate in Member of Parliament Margaret Hodge’s review of the project. Hoge herself has also come forward to admit to a minor breach of Parliament conduct in relation to her Garden Bridge inquiry.

Johnson Summons

Labour Party committee member Tom Copley confirmed that, under the Greater London Authority Act, the Assembly can compel Johnson to attend the summons as a former mayor of London.

The Assembly’s summons is the first time the legal tool has been used on a former London mayor, noted Architects' Journal. Failure to respond to the summons, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal act. As it stands, the Assembly has called for Johnson to appear at 2 p.m. on Feb. 22, but an alternative date can be found if necessary.

“Thirty-seven million pounds of transport finance was allocated to a project which seemed to bypass proper appraisal, procurement procedures were not followed and the promised money from the Garden Bridge Trust did not materialize—leaving the taxpayer to pick up the bill,” said chair of the oversight committee Len Duvall.

“So I think it’s only right that Boris gives us his side of the story,” Duvall added. “I know that Londoners are still very interested to know how the whole project got so far down the track, before the plug was pulled.”

Garden Bridge Crumbles

The nonprofit Garden Bridge Trust announced Aug. 14 that it was “winding up” the project, which was projected to cost 200 million pounds (about $260 million), and which has already cost London taxpayers an estimated 37.4 million pounds. London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in late April that he was pulling city support from the project, citing what he called “exorbitant” costs to build and maintain the structure.

The pedestrian bridge would have spanned the Thames between the Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, near landmarks like the Tate Modern. Plans called for the bridge to be covered with vegetation, including 270 trees, and the structure would have been plated with nickel-copper cladding that supporters said would have been maintenance-free for 120 years.

Garden Bridge rendering
Rendering: Arup

The pedestrian bridge would have spanned the Thames between the Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, near landmarks like the Tate Modern. 

The bridge, designed by Heatherwick Studio with help from engineers at Arup and landscape architect Dan Pearson, was originally slated to be completed in 2018. Last year, the Trust awarded the construction contract to a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA, and said it planned for the bridge to open in 2019.

The Garden Bridge would have been the world’s most expensive pedestrian bridge, and supporters predicted it would become a tourist destination for visitors from around the world. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson signed onto the project, but public opinion on the bridge soured amid ballooning costs and funding uncertainties.

Hodge Misconduct

British media recently reported that during Hodge’s review of the Garden Bridge project, the Member of Parliament used House of Commons stationary, a breach of conduct due to the fact that she had been commissioned by an outside body for its own purposes. The stationery is reserved for use in parliamentary duties.

Hodge offered an apology for inadvertently breaching the rules, which resulted in a £2.97 ($3.95) repayment for the use of Commons stationery.


Tagged categories: Bridges; EU; Europe; Funding; Government; Program/Project Management

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