Mayor answers to London

London River Park

Question number2870/2011
Meeting date12/10/2011

Question by Len Duvall

How much has been spent on the London River Park so far?

Answer by Boris Johnson (1st Term)

Len, I think you have asked whether there is any public funding going into the proposal for a river park and the answer is no.

Len Duvall (AM): I think it was associated cost, but no doubt, Mr Mayor, you can supply that later on. Let me just give you two quotes and I will ask you to comment. Lord Stern, the former Chief Economist of the World Bank, says,

“The likelihood and consequence of financial failure should be considered carefully. It would appear difficult to reconcile the cost of this project with any plausible five-year revenue stream.”

That is Lord Stern,

“The financial credibility of the developer to deliver the project is not a matter for the Mayor.”

That is the Mayoral spokesperson. Who is right and who is wrong?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have got to be careful what I say. This isn’t a project that we are developing. It is not like the cable car, it is not a TfL project. It is something that if you remember the river park idea won the Mayor’s Design Award prize - it is a beautiful idea - to make use of the north bank of the river in a way that is currently impossible. Most people cannot have any access at all or very limited access to that stretch of the river. You cannot very easily walk up and down it. The river park would be a substantial or potentially a substantial benefit to London, and everybody liked the design. There is now a decision, a discussion going on obviously between the planning department of the City of London and the proponents of the scheme. In principle I support the scheme, I should make it clear. I think if we could do such a thing it would be an advantage to the City, and that is why I think you need a GLA and you need to have a Mayoralty to push things forward if they are controversial, if they are difficult, if we think that they could be good for the city. There is no financial exposure on our part or on the taxpayers’ part and it is very, very important to understand. I think Lord Stern, who is obviously a very distinguished economist, as I understand the position, Lord Stern is in fact a resident of that part of the north bank and has reasons for wishing to make his views known, and that is perfectly reasonable.

Len Duvall (AM):

“We have no real idea who these people are or where their money is coming from. It is not the sort of agreement that the Mayor of London should be entering, but Boris would not be dissuaded.”

An unnamed GLA official. If it is the case that we are not involved in this project, why are we signed up to a Memorandum of Understanding, and will you make that public?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, I support the idea in principle, but a decision has got to be taken by the planning authorities and I have made it absolutely clear that I am not going to put taxpayers’ money into the scheme. If it works, if the deal works, if they can develop it in a way that I think is good for London, then that will be a fantastic thing, and I think you have got to be realistic about these things. In tough times - we have discussed already extensively in connection with the cable car - it is our job to leverage in as much private sector investment as we possibly can.

Len Duvall (AM): Is it true that you signed the Memorandum of Understanding within four days of meeting these people without any due diligence of their background or their ability to deliver?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, it is their project.

Len Duvall (AM): No, but you signed it without due diligence.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No.

Len Duvall (AM): Did you do any due diligence at all because my understanding is that it has been reported that we may get 30% net revenues from this. That sounds like we are entering into a financial agreement. Is that what is likely to happen once planning permission is gained then?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): If the river park were to be constructed, then as it happens, I do not think it would be right for the successful developers simply to make money out of a scheme without any benefits to London. There should be some way in which Londoners benefit from a scheme that I think will be advantageous to whoever were to go ahead and do it. So one of the things that is in the Memorandum is that if there are revenues from the scheme, then they should not go entirely to the private sector, but that good schemes across London could be supported from the revenues from the river park. I think that is entirely reasonable.

Len Duvall (AM): So is it true that you signed this agreement without any due diligence?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, that is not true.

Len Duvall (AM): So has due diligence been done, and you signed it within due diligence that was done between your meeting of their representatives and the four days that has been quoted both in The Sunday Times - that no one, I checked, has gone back to The Sunday Times within four days - and the book, the infamous or the famous book, I don’t know which, that says within four days of your meeting, you signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a group of businessmen without any due diligence?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): There was due diligence. There was due diligence done, but the key point I would make to you is that it is --

Len Duvall (AM): Before or after? Before or after?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Before.

Len Duvall (AM): Before?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I just point out to you that it is not strictly speaking relevant because we are not making any financial commitment, and I will not make any financial commitment to this project. I am not going to invest public money in it, and if the proponents of the river park can get it done, I think that would be a great thing, and if they can get it done at no expense to the taxpayer I think it would be a fine thing.

Len Duvall (AM): Will you disclose not the commercial confidentiality, but the board agreements that you have entered into and give sufficient detail around when due diligence was carried out to clarify matters that have been reported both in the press and in publication in the book?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I understand it, the

Len Duvall (AM): It is a yes or no, Chair. It is a yes or no.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I understand it, I am perfectly happy if and when the river park actually comes to fruition to share with you all the details about it.

Len Duvall (AM): No, no, no. Chair, Chair.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): OK. I am sorry, but

Len Duvall (AM): Chair, that was not my question.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): No. I am sorry, but the Labour group is out of time.

Len Duvall (AM): Right, OK.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): Can we now go on to --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not know why you are so incredibly hostile to anybody trying to do anything. It is unbelievable.

Main question

Len Duvall