Police asked to investigate Garden Bridge contracts after alleged 'rigging'

The £175m bridge is set to be opened in 2018

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard has reportedly been pressed to investigate allegations the procurement process behind the capital’s planned garden bridge “was rigged”.

Campaigners are alleged to be submitting a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police concerning allegations of “malfeasance in public office” during the decision, involving London mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London, to award designer Thomas Heatherwick and engineering firm Arup contracts to build the bridge, according to the Guardian.

Critics have claimed the procurement process “was rigged”, with Heatherwick and Arup in contention to win the contracts before tenders were issued.

The mayor’s private diaries, seen by The Observer, have allegedly revealed Mr Johnson met with Mr Heatherwick privately on 1 February 2013, just days before the garden bridge proposal was announced on 13 February 2013.

British Designer Thomas Heatherwick following presentation for the Garden Bridge Getty

Another supposed point of contention is that a key meeting, between Mr Johnson and TfL executives, has allegedly not been recorded in the Mayor’s monthly records.

Mr Johnson is required to publish a monthly report to the London Assembly listing key decisions, however, the Guardian reports, a meeting between Mr Johnson and the then TfL commissioner, Peter Hendy, and its director of strategy, Richard De Cani, was abscent from the record.

The meeting is allegedly when the approval of the scheme was granted, leading to £30 million of TfL funds being allocated to the project.

Meanwhile, a senior transport source with knowledge of the process claims the TfL board were not given an opportunity to make a decision on the garden bridge, according to reports.

According to TfL papers,  the first time the project was mentioned to the board was in July 2013.

Peter Smith, a former procurement director for the Department of Social Security and for NatWest who has researched the garden bridge procurement process, writes on spendmatters.com: "It is a great shame no other bidder has challenged the decision in the courts.”

Mr Smith also raises  questions over how Arup won the contract, and why it was asked to resubmit its bid while other firms were allegedly not.

The £175m bridge was originally conceived by actress Joanna Lumley, who wanted to create a “floating paradise garden” in the heart of London.

In February, the Architects Journal obtained a handwritten note from Ms Lumley to Mr Johnson sent in May 2013 urging the mayor to support her concept for a Garden bridge, which would bring “great loveliness” to the Thames.

The bridge was originally conceived by actress Joanna Lumley Getty

Garden Bridge Trust, the charity working to raise funds for the bridge, aims to open the structure by the summer of 2018.

In response to the allegations a TfL spokesman said: “TfL is satisfied that the procurement processes for the appointment of Heatherwick Studios and Arup were fair and transparent.

“An extensive and thorough review was undertaken by a separate audit team which concluded the procurement of designers for the Garden Bridge was acceptable in relation to the selection of bidders and there is no evidence the processes did not provide value for money.”

The mayor’s office said they have nothing further to add to TfL’s statement.

The Independent has contacted Heatherwick Studio, Arup and the Garden Bridge Trust.