Garden Bridge (1)

MQT on 2015-03-25
Session date: 
March 25, 2015
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Are you satisfied with the way in which the procurement process for the Garden Bridge was conducted?


Answer for Garden Bridge (1)

Answer for Garden Bridge (1)

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On the first point, on Caroline’s point, let me stress that the Garden Bridge, as I have said many times before, is a fantastic project for London.


You have asked whether the procurement process was conducted in a satisfactory way.  The answer to that is emphatically yes.  Transport for London (TfL) has a lot of experience in managing procurement processes.  The competitive tendering and all the rest of it for the design consultants was entirely appropriate.  There were three candidates and Heatherwick Studio came out considerably ahead on the criteria.  The Architects’ Journal under a freedom of information request (FOI) has sought details of that procurement process and you probably have them yourself.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you very much.  Yes, I have had a look at that information.  In the assessment to design and build the bridge, Heatherwick Studio was awarded more points for relevant design experience than either of the rival bidders, despite the fact that they have only ever built one bridge, whereas one of the other bidders had built over 25 bridges, even winning the Stirling Prize.  Are you 100% satisfied that the process was not prejudged in any way?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Yes, of course.  Michelangelo had probably never built a duomo or had never painted the roof of a chapel before he did the Sistine Chapel.  It is a totally ludicrous complaint, in my view.  The process was entirely reasonable.  I can give you them:  Wilkinson Eyre, Marks Barfield and Heatherwick Studios all entered.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  You are saying you are completely satisfied?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  On relevant experience, Heatherwick scored slightly lower.  On relevant design experience, Heatherwick scored slightly higher.  On understanding the brief, Heatherwick was ahead.  There were different considerations that were applied.  Most impartial punters who look at that design think it is fabulous and it will be a wonderful adornment to our city.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Yes, you keep saying it is wonderful, but let us focus on the procurement, Mr Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I find it very depressing that you persist in this Taliban-like hatred of objects of beauty.  I urge you to desist.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Mr Mayor, let us look at the procurement and let us keep focused on that.  What is your explanation for experienced bridge architects being scored lower?  Joanna Lumley [British actor], who is the main campaigner for the bridge, is someone who has known you - I think she said - since you were four and she finds you amenable.  You had a very warm letter from her following the election in 2012 in which she thanked you for the tulips and said, “Please say yes to the Garden Bridge”.  You have been lobbied by an old friend, who also happens to be an associate at Heatherwick Studio and has been working with them for over ten years.  We have £60 million of public money going into this.  There are some serious questions that need to be answered here.  Do you not take any of these concerns seriously?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  No, of course not, because I do not know quite what concerns you are alluding to.  The proposal that was made about the Garden Bridge was one that was made by Heatherwick Studio, which is a very reputable and dynamic London firm.  It did the Olympic Cauldron.  It has had fantastic success in designing London’s offering at the Shanghai World Fair.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  OK, Mr Mayor.  Can I just ask you a very simple question then on this --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It has done fantastic stuff and is a world-famous design studio.  It is one of the great export businesses of this country.  It has produced a spectacular design for the Garden Bridge.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  OK.  Let me just ask a simple question, Mr Mayor.  If you have full confidence in this process, there are questions out there and they may be completely unfounded ‑‑


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am glad you say that, Caroline.  I am glad you say that because they are indeed completely unfounded.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  ‑‑ but could you, Mr Mayor, agree to a full and independent audit of the procurement process to reassure everyone that it was not something that was prejudged in any way?  Will you agree to that?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  What I will certainly agree to is showing you all of the relevant documents and I believe you have them already.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  You will not agree to an independent audit of the procurement?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I do not know quite what you mean by that.  This Assembly is paid considerable sums of money by the taxpayer to invigilate that kind of thing and there you are, Caroline, sitting there in authority.  You have all the documents.  They are transparent.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  You will not agree to a full audit of the process?


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  You have all the relevant qualifications to assess whether or not there has been transparency.  It seems to me that there has been complete transparency.  Adding all the criteria together, you get 62.5% for Wilkinson Eyre, Marks Barfield had 65% and Heatherwick Studio had 72.5%.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Mr Mayor, let me just ask a final question on this, please.  Finally then, you will not agree to that but can you confirm - very simply, yes or no - whether the Greater London Authority (GLA) will guarantee the annual and ongoing maintenance costs for the bridge?  It is a planning condition from Westminster.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Through you, Roger, this is basically the second question, which I am perfectly happy to take if you ‑‑


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Is it?  OK.  I will leave it there, then.  I will let John [Biggs AM] pick that up.  Sorry, I had not realised that.  I will let John pick that up.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  We will move on to John.