Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith breaks his silence, calling the procurement of Heatherwick’s £175m scheme ‘thorough’
Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has finally broken his silence over the Garden Bridge, defending its highly controversial procurement and calling it ‘thorough’.
Last week, the AJ revealed how mayor Boris Johnson had been accused of a City Hall ‘cover up’ after it emerged that he and designer Thomas Heatherwick had promoted the £175m Heatherwick scheme to potential corporate sponsor Apple in San Francisco in February 2013 before TfL’s official design competition took place.
Responding to the story, Goldsmith told the AJ: ‘I think the design is beautiful and iconic, and that once built, the bridge will be a source of pride for Londoners.
‘It’s a good example of the public and private sector working together, and given that the public contribution has already been spent, it would be a great shame and waste if the project were to be shelved. Like all infrastructure projects, it been through a thorough procurement and planning process, and it’s right that the [London Assembly] should scrutinise it, which is their job.’
Goldsmith is close to Johnson and his Twitter account features a photograph of the two men in discussion. But his stance on the Garden Bridge puts him at odds with the London Assembly which has called on Johnson to withdraw public funding and launch a full inquiry and with the other two leading candidates for London mayor.
Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon has been a highly vocal critic of the project and its procurement through her role on the London Assembly’s oversight committee. And Labour’s Sadiq Khan’s told AJ last week that the mayor had growing questions to answer over whether TfL’s design contest was ‘fair and above board’.
Speaking as a mayoral candidate, Pidgeon accused Goldmith of ’slavishly defending’ a cover up.
She said: ’Zac Goldsmith’s incredible claim that there was a rigorous procurement process over the Garden Bridge exposes his total lack of understanding over what has actually taken place.
’Far from showing any independent thought his default position is to slavishly defend the continual cover up by Boris Johnson of a rather murky procurement process.’
On Tuesay morning, Johnson endured a torrid interview with LBC Radio’s Nick Ferrari, as he was repeatedly accused of favouring Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge over non Garden Bridge designs by Marks Barfield and Wilkinson Eyre.
He labelled Garden Bridge critics ‘demented enemies’ as he came under fire from Ferrari and Garden Bridge campaigner Michael Ball, who called the ‘Ask Boris’ programme.
Ferrari said: ‘The fact that he’s [Thomas Heatherwick] sitting down with potential sponsors and other rivals that are bidding for it are not being made aware of it. That’s not preferential treatment?
‘You were a journalist of considerable note at one point in your career. Do you not think this starts to smell?’
The Mayor – who is also chairman of TfL - denied this and said he would have been happy to have seen an alternative design from one of the other two architects win the competition.
‘The Garden Bridge is ringed with demented enemies, who do not want to see something beautiful established in the centre of London,’ he added.
The mayor also denied that TfL’s own auditor had found fault with the competition even though he publicly admitted it was ‘neither open nor objective’ back in October. And he denied listing his San Francisco trip as private even though this is how it is described in his own 2013 diary (attached), released under Freedom of Information.
Heatherwick Garden Bridge