Trustees 'may have breached legal duties' over Garden Bridge


The trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust may have broken charity law in their management of the failed project, a legal expert has said.

The Architects’ Journal reported that in the opinion of Jason Coppel QC, an expert in public and procurement law, the trustees, who include Joanna Lumley, had breached their legal duties to act with reasonable skill and care.

The Garden Bridge: a fantasy that never never materialised

In an 11-page legal opinion that the Architects’ Journal said it had seen, Mr Coppel said it was ‘likely’ that the trustees breached these duties ‘in particular in relation to the conclusion of the construction contract with Bouygues’.

Although trustees of a charity can become personally liable, Mr Coppel argued that legal action against the trustees of the Garden Bridge Trust could be problematic, partly because its beneficiaries were identified as ‘members of the public at large’.

‘The principal difficulty is that any potential claimant would not have suffered any loss as a result of the trustees’ actions,’ he wrote.

The publication said that the party who commissioned Mr Coppel's opinion, who wants to remain anonymous, had asked him to advise on a potential claim against the trustees following the cancellation of the project last year. It said this had resulted in the loss of an estimated £46m of public money.

Mr Coppel noted that while a ‘substantial proportion’ of the criticism directed against the Garden Bridge concerned Transport for London’s procurement of Heatherwick Studio and Arup, ‘there were […] a number of matters which have been laid at the door of the trust, in particular the decision to enter into a construction contract with the Bouygues-TP Cimolai joint venture […] at a time when the trust had neither secured all of the necessary funding for the project nor the necessary rights to use the land which would be required for the project'.

He cited a report last year by Dame Margaret Hodge – which also criticised the signing of the construction contract – and said he was unconvinced by a report on the Trust published by the Charity Commission last year, which largely backed the trustees’ actions.

‘Like [Hodge], I do not regard the conclusions of the Commission as providing a sufficient answer to an allegation of breach of the equitable duty of care, not least in the light of events which subsequently ensued,’ the Architects' Journal reported Mr Coppel as writing.


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Definitive Map Manager

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
This role is based within the Highways Service at Cambridgeshire County Council and provides an unusual and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Bridge Park Operations Manager

Brent Council
£38,799 - £41,706 p.a. inc.
This is an exciting opportunity to play a key role in managing the operations and contributing towards the... Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
A great opportunity for someone looking to start or develop a career in Highways Engineering including the... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Head of Strategic Transport

Cheshire East Council
£64,000 - £75,000 + benefits
We’re committed to “working for a brighter future together” – and we expect you to be too! Cheshire
Recuriter: Cheshire East Council

Regeneration Manager

Mole Valley District Council
£52,895 - £57,143 FTE
This is a great career opportunity to specialise in town centre regeneration and repositioning. Dorking, Surrey
Recuriter: Mole Valley District Council

Technical Services Officer (Mechanical)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£36,876 - £38,813
This is an exciting and challenging time for Kirklees and we want to expand our team to manage and deliver construction... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Road and Footway Asset Engineer

Kent County Council
£28,925 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to join the Road and Footway Asset Team as an Asset Engineer. Kent
Recuriter: Kent County Council

Head of Waste

Lincolnshire County Council
£65,651 - £70,725
As Head of Waste, you will be commercially focussed and forward-thinking. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director

Reading Borough Council
Up to £92k
It’s the ideal time to take the lead on our modernisation agenda, and deliver growth in the trading of our front line services. Reading, Berkshire
Recuriter: Reading Borough Council

Assistant Director – Highways

Lincolnshire County Council
£82,264 - £107,878
Come and lead the future agenda for our highways services. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council