Assembly in session

The Garden Bridge over troubled water

17 March 2016

Blunders, leaked documents, missing paperwork, defensive responses and confusion.  Today the GLA Oversight Committee released its report ‘The Garden Bridge design procurement’ – the culmination of four scrutiny meetings and intensive investigations. 

In February 2013, Transport for London (TfL) invited three companies to tender for the design contract for a “pedestrian footbridge” from Temple to South Bank.  The three organisations were Marks Barfield, Wilkinson Eyre and Heatherwick Studio.  In April, Heatherwick Studio was awarded the contract, valued at £60,000.

The report, which has the support of the majority of the Committee, finds:

  • The Mayor should have been more upfront about the range and nature of contacts between his Office, TfL senior management and Heatherwick Studio.
  • There were a series of procedural errors in the procurement process.
  • The final published audit failed to address the original objective.

The report states that the evidence gathered on failures of process led the Committee to “conclude that the objectivity and fairness of this procurement process was adversely affected by these actions, which casts a shadow on the ultimate outcome.”

The recommendations include:

  • TfL to consider reimbursing the unsuccessful bidders from the Garden Bridge design contract to compensate them for the time and expense incurred in preparing their proposals for a pedestrian bridge. 
  • The Mayor’s office should compile written records of all meetings the Mayor holds with external bodies, including clarity about what capacity he is there in.
  • Where major, priority projects are commissioned by a future Mayor and are not in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, that the Mayor implements them by directing the TfL Board.
  • The TfL Audit & Assurance Committee should publish audit reports in full, not just the summary and conclusions as is now the case.

The report is the view of a majority of the Committee including Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green London Assembly Members. The GLA Conservatives did not support the conclusions of the report.  See their minority opinion at Appendix 1.

Len Duvall AM, Chair of the GLA Oversight Committee said:

“This whole process was badly handled from start to finish.  TfL started work without a clear idea of the extent of its eventual involvement, which led to confusion among staff and managers in the early stages of the project.  The Mayor’s Private Office was less than honest about where he was, what he was doing there and why.

In fact, the situation probably appeared worse than it actually was – due to the secretive and defensive nature of various responses from TfL and the Mayor.  Also, because there was confusion about the purpose of the bridge, the two other companies tendered for a pedestrian bridge contract. This was unfair – only Heatherwick Studio was fully aware of the desire for a ‘Garden Bridge’.

What should be a great tourist attraction, has been tainted by the dodgy design procurement process. Whether the Garden Bridge can overcome its controversial beginnings, will remain to be seen.”

Notes to editors

  1. 17 September 2015 - The GLA Oversight Committee examined the procurement of the Garden Bridge’s design contract with Richard De Cani, Managing Director of Planning at TfL, Will Hurst, Deputy Editor of Architects’ Journal and Walter Menteth of Walter Menteth Architects.  22 October 2015 - The GLA Oversight Committee discussed TfL’s internal review of the procurement process with Clive Walker, Director of Internal Audit TfL.  17 December 2015 - The GLA Oversight Committee met with the Mayor of London (and Chair of TfL’s Board) and the TfL Commissioner to discuss broad strategic issues which had been raised by its past work. Richard De Cani was also on the panel.  25 February 2016 - The GLA Oversight Committee met with Keith Williams, Chair of TfL’s Audit and Assurance Committee to discuss that Committee’s response to Oversight Committee letter dated 3 December.
  2. The publication page with transcripts and webcasts is here.
  3. The report ‘The Garden Bridge design procurement’is attached.
  4. Len Duvall AM, Chair of the GLA Oversight Committee is available for interview.  See contact details below.
  5. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For media enquiries, please contact Alison Bell on 020 7983 4228.  For out of hours media enquiries, call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the London Assembly duty press officerNon-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.

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