The end of the road? Boris Johnson accused of ‘cover up’ over Garden Bridge architect

Boris Johnson could be in hot water over allegations surrounding his involvement with the architect chosen to design the Garden Bridge.

Allegations of a ‘cover up’ currently surround the procurement of the bridge, after it was discovered the architect who won the competition to design the crossing had previous involvement with London mayor.

Reports emerged in January the mayor flew to San Francisco in February 2013 to lobby for funding for the bridge and architect Thomas Heatherwick was also in attendance.

President of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Jane Duncan, said: “Given the high profile nature of this project and the seriousness of the allegations, we would argue this project is put on hold.”

Only days after the fundraising event, Mr Heatherwick took part in a TfL bridge contest in which he beat two other London-based architects Marks Barfield and Wilkinson Eyre.

Several FOI requests from the Architects Journal office unearthed details of the procurement process, which revealed numerous facts about the fundraising trip involving technology giants Apple.

Heatherwick was reportedly part of the funding pitch to Apple in California, but it has since been reported the technology company has no plans to get involved in the project.

Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem’s mayoral candidate, said she was staggered the mayor of London flew to California at the taxpayers’ expense to allegedly drum up support for Heatherwick’s proposal.

She said: “The mayor must now publish in full the exact details of his meetings held during this trip. It is time this cover up ended.”

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson said the mayor met with Apple in 2013 to discuss a number of investment opportunities in London, and that Mr Heatherwick was in California on a separate commitment.

The spokesperson said: “An audit of Transport for London’s procurement process has already found that it was open, fair and transparent.

“The Mayor does not intend to halt a project that will be a spectacular new addition to London.

“Work on building the bridge is due to begin this year and is widely supported by Londoners and businesses on both sides of the river.”

The plans for the Garden Bridge have long been championed by actress Joanna Lumley, who referenced in her 2004 autobiography Mr Heatherwick was happy to work on the crossing.

Lumley’s involvement with the project goes far beyond vocal support as she is named as a trustee of the Garden Bridge Trust which will maintain the crossing if it is ever built.

Meanwhile Labour’s mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, said in January that Mr Johnson has growing questions to answer, and this debacle shows the need for a fresh start in City Hall.

Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has voiced his support for the controversial Garden Bridge, saying he doesn’t believe once it is built people will look on it with regret.

He said: “I think it’s going to be an important part of London.”

Image courtesy of Arup, with thanks

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