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TfL boss orders Garden Bridge review


Peter Hendy agrees to publish findings and reveals Heatherwick’s fee bid was 11 times higher than Marks Barfield’s

The boss of Transport for London has ordered a review of the procurement of the Garden Bridge designer following an investigation published by the Architects’ Journal which has sparked accusations that the process was ‘pre-judged’.

In a letter sent this week to the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the London Assembly Caroline Pidgeon, TfL commissioner Peter Hendy said: ‘In response to your letter and the general level of interest in the Garden Bridge, I have instructed a review of the overall process of procurement of the Garden Bridge design contracts, the findings of which I will publish in full.’

Hendy also revealed that Garden Bridge designer Heatherwick Studio’s estimated total price - wrongly redacted in TfL’s February response to AJ’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request - was far higher than its two fellow bidders in the 2013 invited concept design competition.

At £173,000, Heatherwick’s initial estimate was more than three times that of Wilkinson Eyre’s £49,939 and more than 11 times Marks Barfield’s £15,125.

Heatherwick’s bid was nonetheless judged by TfL the most ‘economically advantageous’.

Hendy claimed in his letter however that these three estimates ‘did not form part of the formal judging’, and said that the selection process was instead based on day rates which he declined to divulge for ‘reasons of commercial sensitivity’.

AJ first revealed in December last year that politicians were to investigate the ‘sketchy’ non-OJEU process by which TfL appointed Heatherwick ahead of competitors and experienced bridge designers Marks Barfield and Wilkinson Eyre.

AJ then broke further stories using FOI including celebrity Garden Bridge backer Joanna Lumley’s personal lobbyingof Boris Johnson on behalf of Heatherwick’s design in the wake of Johnson’s second mayoral election victory in 2012 and details of TfL’s scoring of the contest which were seized on by critics.

This included the fact that Heatherwick Studio was rated highest for ‘relevant design experience’ despite having completed just one bridge compared to the more than 25 bridges Wilkinson Eyre had designed including the Stirling Prize-winning Gateshead Millennium bridge.

Pidgeon asked a series of questions in response and in March was accused by mayor Boris Johnson of having a ‘Taliban-like hatred of beauty’ as he refused to grant her demand for a ‘full and independent audit of the process’ undertaken by TfL.

However, she then wrote to Hendy earlier this month, highlighting serious concern with the procurement process given six documents ‘obtained by FOI requests made by Architects’ Journal’ relating to the 2013 design contest.

She specifically questioned why ‘given TfL’s commitment to transparency…was the Heatherwick quote redacted as well as a redaction of all day rates, when the value of the quotes given for Marks Barfield Architects and Wilkinson Eyre Architects were listed?’

In his response, Hendy wrote: ‘The inconsistent redaction of the total prices between the three bids when information was supplied to the Architects’ Journal as part of an FOI request was a simple and unfortunate case of human error and we have written to the journalist, Will Hurst, to correct our mistake.

‘Following the assessment of all three bids, Heatherwick Studio was awarded the contract based on the day rates submitted but with a capped fee of £60,000. The actual value of work undertaken under this contract was £52,000.’


Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats, London Assembly

‘Every step taken by Architects’ Journal in examining the procurement process of the design contracts for the Garden Bridge has simply led to further questions needing to be answered.

‘I therefore welcome Peter Hendy’s decision to ensure that a proper review of the overall procurement of the design contracts is now carried out and published in full.

‘Peter Hendy’s decision is especially welcome as Boris Johnson has so far blocked any attempt to undertake a review.

‘Hopefully the review will be thorough and answer all the remaining questions over the procurement process.  Most importantly it should lead to lessons being learnt for the future, including the need for future projects of this significance being always open to a proper design competition.’



Readers' comments (6)

  • Why do I have to get to the bottom of the story to discover Heatherwick was only paid £52,000?

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  • Heatherwick stands to make up to £17m from this contract, taking the standard approach of architect's fees being 10% of the overall budget. The reason why he was only paid £52k was that the TfL was just a 6 week job as an architectural adviser at the outline strategic business planning stage. How this has then been rolled on into a substantive contract for designing the entire bridge remains unexplained

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  • As Heatherwick Studio's experience in bridge design is apparently limited to just one project - the 'hedgehog' novelty footbridge produced to add interest to the Paddington Basin development - presumably either Heatherwick employs architects with extensive bridge design experience from elsewhere, or it's not so much his studio as his structural consultant who has the relevant experience.
    Whatever the facts, at least he's not up there with Mr Johnson in the asinine riposte to Caroline Pidgeon.
    I'm not sure whether Mr Johnson's attitude to beauty bears close examination - and his stellar career path is beginning to display some unfortunate parallels with that of the affable Mr Blatter.

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  • I like the idea of architects being paid 10 per cent of the overall project budget. Trebles all round!

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  • Wow 10% wouldn't that be nice, try 2-5% Michael :(

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  • Paul I'm puzzled by your drinking habits - we worked together on a TfL backed project on the South Bank with 10% fees, no?

    According to the Architect Fees Bureau, the percentage charge is usually calculated as follows: Anywhere between 8-12% of the final project cost, for architect supervision from start to completion.

    Of course the Garden Bridge is a high cost project, and the fees could be as low as 7% - which is still over £11m. Maybe Heatherwick even has to share them with Arup, so he could be down to his last £5m.

    Treble Lear jets all round, I'd say!

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