15 July 2017

Zombie bridge awaits decapitation

Remember the Garden Bridge, the weed-capped insult to honest procurement, the unlamented jolly folly in the middle of London's River Thames, a celebrity-garlanded monument to starry-eyed foolishness?

You may recall that London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, struck the project a mortal blow when he withdrew his support for the scheme on 28th April. Khan was responding to Margaret Hodge's project review, which had already assaulted the victim with a series of timely and well-deserved knife wounds.

So why is the Garden Bridge still in the news now? It seems the body was not properly buried, but has emerged from the grave and is shambling onwards, a terrifying vision of a zombie bridge. What animates this supposedly lifeless corpse?

The power of celebrity clearly remains strong, and retains its power to utterly and completely cloud critical thinking. Architect Richard Rogers recently offered the project extensive praise in the Evening Standard, the official journal of the Garden Bridge Fan Club.

The speciousness of Rogers' arguments is apparent from the outset. He opens his article by observing: "The River Thames should be London's greatest asset but for centuries it was a barrier rather than a connection", and commenting on how the better parts of the Thames river banks are those that act as public promenades. It is these very same promenades that the Garden Bridge would obliterate at its chosen location, and the over-tall bridge would have been as much a barrier as a connection, destroying fine views along the river. The celebrity friends and hangers-on can sprinkle the zombie bridge with perfume, but it will not obscure the rotten stench of the undead.

Petitioners against the project have discovered that Khan did more than withdraw financial guarantees for future bridge maintenance, he revoked a series of previous mayoral decisions which had been issued in its favour. This removes not only financial support, but policy support, essentially preventing the London Assembly or Transport for London continuing to support the private Garden Bridge Trust in pursuing the scheme.

Given this, what is surprising is that the other public bodies involved in the project, such as London Borough of Lambeth, have remained silent, and not also made public an intention to no longer engage with the Garden Bridge Trust. It's remarkable that the Trust itself, which was barely a going concern several months ago, has not made public any plans to wind itself up, settling its debts (such as to the disappointed main contractor) and returning whatever funds it is able to.

And it's amazing that there is still complete silence from all involved on who is to blame for the whole fiasco (especially the shady design procurement processes), and what consequences will fall upon them.

Previous posts: Garden Bridge saga

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