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Government Demands Garden Bridge Correspondence

Friday, February 1, 2019

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In a move to investigate further into the failed London Garden Bridge project, the London Assembly recently issued a demand for correspondence from Transport for London that was written in communication with the project’s trust.

According to the Architects’ Journal, the summons requires that Transport for London supply two letters sent last year by Garden Bridge Trust chair Mervyn Davies.

Project Background

The nonprofit Garden Bridge Trust announced in August 2017 that it was “winding up” the project, which had already cost London taxpayers an estimated 37.4 million pounds. London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in late April 2018 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.

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. 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.

Arup

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

Former London mayor Boris Johnson was called forward in December 2017 to answer questions regarding the ill-fated project. In March 2018, Johnson alleged that he could not recall why he signed the key directive as mayor of London, while also noting that the funding conditions had been met by the charity behind the project. He was subsequently asked why he had watered down some of these conditions.

In May 2018, a report indicated that the Trust was made aware of several problems with the project before the contract was signed for construction to begin—and of the fact that there was no guarantee the funding could be raised to address these issues.

In December, wealthy individuals who provided financial donations to the project are now seeking to sue the charity behind the endeavor, with one alleging that the money had been flushed away when the project fell apart.

Project Correspondence

The Journal made a Freedom of Information request in December for written correspondence between the Trust and certain Transport for London officers, but certain letters, sent by Davies in July and September, were withheld due to claims of putting commercial interests at risk or issues with personal data. Transport for London argued at that the time that only emails and letters fell under the umbrella of  “written correspondence”; a new FOI would have to be filed for additional correspondence such as social media messages.

Earlier this month, Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley, acting as a chair for a new group investigating the project, noted that the group expects full cooperation “with our continued investigations into the failed Garden Bridge project and will use all of the powers at our disposal to get it.”

The summons also includes any social media messages, texts and notes exchanged between the two agencies.

“Hiding behind the veil of ‘commercially sensitive information’ won’t wash—when documents can be redacted, if necessary, before we place them in the public domain,” said Copley.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; EU; Government; Lawsuits; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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