DD1495 The Illuminated River

Type of decision: 
Director's decision
Date signed: 
03 May 2016
Decision by: 
Jeff Jacobs, Head of Paid Service

Executive summary

Approval is required for a grant of £100,000 from the Olympic Reserve to the Illuminated River
Charitable Trust to support the procurement process for a design competition for the first phase of the Illuminated River project (IR), a new unified lighting scheme for up to 17 bridges on the River Thames. 

The first phase of IR will include a procurement compliant design competition to commission a unified lighting design and the delivery of new high tech, environmentally sound lighting for 5 bridges and river crossings with an estimated cost of £5 million.

The project was jointly initiated by the GLA and the Rothschild Foundation (RF), who are contributing £250,000 towards the first phase. The City of London Corporation have agreed to contribute £500,000 towards delivery of the first phase. RF are setting up a new entity, the Illuminated River Charitable Trust (IRCT) which will be a charitable incorporated organisation, to lead and deliver the project.


The Executive Director approves expenditure of a grant of £100,000 from the Olympic Reserve to the Illuminated River Charitable Trust to deliver a design competition to commission a unified lighting design for up to 17 bridges on the River Thames. Funding is subject to the Trust being incorporated and satisfactory due diligence.


Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

1.1    The bridges across the River Thames in Greater London are currently vibrant by day and underutilised at night. This part of the city’s infrastructure is an unexploited asset which could contribute to London’s night time economy. The ambition of the Illuminated River (IR) project is to create an attractive, technologically advanced, environmentally friendly lighting solution for the bridges. 
1.2    The project was jointly initiated by the GLA and the Rothschild Foundation (RF), a charitable trust with a strong track-record of partnering with multiple stakeholders to deliver regeneration projects in London such as the redevelopment of Somerset House. RF is in the process of establishing a new charitable trust to deliver IR. It is proposed that the GLA should have observer status on the Board of Trustees for the new charitable trust. The GLA reserves the right to join the Board as a full Trustee at a future date.

1.3    One of the primary roles of the new charitable trust will be to raise adequate funds to deliver the
project. This first phase (delivery of 5 illuminated bridges) will require £5 million of investment. Lord Rothschild, chair of RF, will act as a champion for the project to gain the support of businesses and philanthropists.

1.4    The GLA has chaired the planning and advisory groups to date which has seen local authorities, private corporations, the tourism industry and infrastructure groups working together towards a brief to meet shared aims. This has provided further opportunities for cross-sector partnership.

1.5    In future, project delivery will be supported by a core planning group and subgroups for communications, bridge managers and a fundraising and investment group. The GLA will be represented on the core group and all sub-groups. The core group includes Port of London Authority, City of London Corporation, London boroughs, Rothschild Foundation and is chaired by Cross River Partnership.

1.6    Two consultants have been appointed by RF to support the IR project. The design competition procurement process to commission a unified lighting design is being coordinated by Malcolm Reading Consultants and the PR, Press and Communications for the project are being coordinated by Bolton and Quinn.

1.7    The design competition procurement process will be open to multidisciplinary teams of artists, architects, designers and engineers. The competition will be compliant with the Public Contract Regulations 2015 and OJEU standards, ensuring transparency and accountability within the selection process. There will be three selection panels – a shortlisting committee, a supporting panel to provide technical assessments of bids and the final jury. GLA will be represented on two out of the three as required.

1.8    IR will offer opportunities to partner with the GLA education team with potential to create a design and engineering segment for the London Curriculum and scope for schools design competitions. There will also be apprenticeship opportunities included in the delivery of the lighting scheme.
1.9 A decision in-principle was made in principle at IPB in October 2014 to allocate £250,000 from the then Olympic Reserve towards delivering technical infrastructure upgrades to the lighting infrastructure for 8 bridges from Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge. Over the past 18 months the Rothschild Foundation have been carrying out further consultation with key stakeholders to ensure they are on board and testing feasibility and estimated costings for the project. The ambitions of the overall project have been revised to include bridges between London’s two iconic bridges – Tower Bridge and Albert Bridge (up to 17 bridges in total) and the delivery of the project will now be in phases.  The GLA contribution is only to phase one, that is the delivery of five illuminated bridges.  This DD represents a first payment of £100,000 specifically towards the design competition procurement process costs to commission a unified light design which will be launched in June 2016, invitation to tenders published in August 2016, an exhibition of 6 shortlisted entries in November 2016 and the winner announced in December 2016.

A further investment of £150,000 from the Olympic Reserve has been set aside towards further design work following the design competition and delivery of the first phase of the lighting scheme (as agreed at the October 2014 IPB meeting) and will be subject to the third party contributions having been secured for the 5 bridges. This will be presented for approval following transition to the new mayoralty, with funding being released when key milestones in the project have been met. This would bring the total investment in the project to £250,000, amounting to an investment of just five percent of the overall predicted cost of £5 million for the first phase. 

Objectives and expected outcomes

The first phase of the IR project (April 2016- May 2018) will deliver:

2.1.1    A high profile design competition to commission a unified light design which will be promoted across Europe offering significant media exposure for London and the tourism offer on the River Thames.

2.1.2    An ambitious, costed artist-led design for up to 17 bridges and river crossings along the River Thames which will be used to develop a longer term project (this first phase will deliver lighting for five bridges)

2.1.3    New lighting installed for five bridges by May 2018 at an estimated cost of £5 million. The lighting schemes will utilise the latest technology taking into account environmental sustainability. 

2.2       Opportunities for schools engagement through the London Curriculum and apprenticeship opportunities in design, engineering and construction.

2.3       A benchmarking exercise to begin to measure the social and economic impact of IR including night time footfall and effect on the wider night time economy in the areas surrounding the bridges.

Equality comments

3.1    The GLA is a public authority which must comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty set out in section 149 (1) Equality Act 2010.  This provides that, in the exercise of their functions, public authorities must have due regard to the need to:

•    Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act 2010;
•    Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and
•    Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

3.2    The obligation in section 149(1) is placed upon the Mayor, as decision maker. Due regard must be had at the time a particular decision is being considered. The duty is non-delegable and must be exercised with an open mind.  

3.3    As the project progresses GLA Culture will seek opportunities to share information and consult (at an
appropriate level) with GLA stakeholder groups including the Deaf and Disabled Stakeholder Group; the Mayor’s Older People’s Advisory Forum, the LGBT Stakeholder Group and the Migrants and Refugee Stakeholder Group via the relevant officers within the GLA Diversity and Social Policy team and with the Community Stakeholder group via the GLA Community Relations team.

3.4    The GLA has been working closely with RF to ensure that the impacts of all processes and outcomes of the project take into consideration the needs of relevant equality groups. Positive social and environmental impacts will be key indicators of success for this project.

Other considerations

4.1    Key risks and issues 

•    Inadequate funding to deliver the first phase of the project is a key risk. Costs for up to 8 bridges were estimated at £2.5m in the proposal approved by IPB. Following further research, these currently stand at £5m for 5 bridges. To mitigate a further increase in costs, an essential criteria for the project manager is a strong track record in fundraising and partnership development. The support of the Rothschild Foundation as a champion for the project will also increase the chances of successful fundraising campaign.

•    The project may not be seen as a mayoral priority post-election. Funding from both the RF and the City of London was predicated on the Mayor of London funding and may be at risk if the £250,000 is not agreed. 

•     The funding only applies to the first phase of the project (five bridges), after which there is no GLA commitment to support. The £250,000 was approved by IPB to deliver up to 8 bridges. As noted in the IPB paper, GLA officers will seek assurance that all required third party contributions have been secured before releasing the remainder of the £250,000 grant in order to minimise the risks for the GLA and to ensure that all 5 bridges are fully delivered from the GLA funding and third party income raised.

•    GLA officers will ensure early input from the new Mayor to ensure that the project has his or her full backing and that delivery aligns with Mayoral priorities.

4.2 Links to Mayoral strategies and priorities

•    IR will add to London’s cultural tourism offer and supports the night time economy along the river. It will also offer Built Environment professional training opportunities through apprenticeships and educational opportunities through a schools engagement programme.

4.3 Impact assessments and consultations

•    The GLA Culture Team has worked closely with RF to convene relevant stakeholders in support of IR. Between September and December 2015, the planning team has consulted with representatives from Port of London Authority (PLA), City of London (CoL) and City of Westminster corporations, Cross River Partnership (CRP), London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Totally Thames, Lambeth Council, Southwark Council, TfL, Historic England and London and Partners. All these stakeholders are in support of the project. There is ongoing work to expand the stakeholder group.


Financial comments

5.1    Approval is being sought for the GLA to award a grant of £100,000 to the Illuminated River Charitable Trust in support of the first phase of the Illuminated River lighting scheme including the OEJU design competition.

5.2 The Rothschild Foundation is in the process of setting up the Illuminated River Charitable Trust (IRCT) which will be a charitable incorporated organisation, to lead and deliver the project. Funding will not be granted until the Trust is incorporated and due diligence check performed.

5.2    The cost of this grant will be funded from 2015/16 carry forward budget of £250,000 held within Culture (Illuminated bridges). The additional £150,000 budget will be held further to approval from the new Mayor, with funding expected to be released when key project milestones have been met.  

5.3    The funding agreement only applies to the early phases of this project, after which there is no further commitment by the GLA to support the project.

Investment and Performance Board

IPB received a paper on an Illuminated River proposal in October 2014 for its approval in-principle. The Board approved in principle expenditure of £250,000 as grant funding to the lighting of up to 8 bridges, noting that the GLA would not underwrite any third party costs.

Planned delivery approach and next steps



Appointment of Project Manager

May 2016

Funding agreement between GLA and IR Charitable Incorporated Organisation

June 2016

Design competition procurement process commences

June 2016

Invitation to tender to selected organisations

August 2016

Design competition complete and exhibition of short list

Nov 2016

Winner of competition announced

Dec 2016

Review of partnership between IR and GLA

Dec 2016

Design agreed, planning approved and private funding secured by IRCT for first phase

June 2017

Five bridge lighting schemes completed and unveiled

May 2018


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