London Eye designer and losing bidder in TfL’s 2013 contest says practice ‘will assist’ Margaret Hodge if called to do so
London mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to launch a review into the Garden Bridge has been welcomed by one of the practices which lost out to Heatherwick Studio in TfL’s much-disputed design contest.
Khan announced last week that former chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, would ‘investigate the work of TfL, the GLA and other relevant authorities around the Garden Bridge going back to when the project was first proposed’ including questions surrounding procurement and value for money.
Julia Barfield – whose practice Marks Barfield was invited to take part in the early 2013 competition alongside Wilkinson Eyre and victor Heatherwick – said in a statement: ‘We welcome this review and will assist if called on to do so’.
The inquiry was also hailed by RIBA president Jane Duncan.
Back in February, Duncan challenged former mayor Boris Johnson to launch a full investigation saying she was ‘extremely concerned’ about the fairness and transparency of the procurement following to the AJ’s long-running investigation.
In response to Khan’s move, Duncan said: ‘We welcome the Mayor’s commitment to scrutiny on the Garden Bridge project and his recognition that procurement must be improved for future projects. Future public procurement projects in London and throughout the UK must be delivered to the high standards the public expect and deserve.’
Meanwhile, chair of New London Architecture, Peter Murray, suggested the inquiry should set out how private sector schemes and ideas could be taken forward by the public sector.
‘This is another example of the Mayor’s deft handling of a difficult political issue,’ Murray said. ‘Margaret Hodge has proved a formidable scrutineer of procurement procedures in the past and her findings will lay many ghosts to rest. Calculating value for money is always difficult in projects like this although Sadiq’s key policy of encouraging more walking in London is a plus [for the Garden Bridge].
‘In her ’lessons to be learnt’ I hope that Mrs Hodge will address how projects generated by non-public bodies can be facilitated. I’m thinking not just of the Garden Bridge, but the nine Elms Bridge and the Sustrans bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf as well as the many initiatives that I am sure would be emerging from architects and engineers if only the path to implementation was not so strewn with danger.’
However, Tory politician Daniel Moylan, who has had no direct involvement with the Garden Bridge but was a TfL board member under Boris Johnson, attacked the mayor’s choice of Hodge, calling it ‘disgraceful’.
Moylan said: ‘This appointment of a Labour politician by another Labour politician discredits the inquiry.
‘In Parliament, Hodge showed herself to be little more than a ranting grandstander and she has none of the qualifications required to conduct a forensic inquiry into a contractual matter unlike the thousands of people out there suitably qualified to do this.’
Wilkinson Eyre has been approached for comment. Heatherwick Studio declined to comment.