“TWAP! In the name of love, before you break my heart!” as The Supremes didn’t sing back in 1965. But they might have done had they been living in Twickenham rather than the Motor City and whilst taking a keen interest in the regeneration of the town (48 years in the future). That makes next to no sense but luckily a plan going before Richmond Council’s cabinet on 16th May is a little grounded in reality.
In support of its Twickenham Action Plan (aka TWAP) El Brute is proposing to buy a piece of land for the good of us all. Huzzah! Probably. The site in question is on the corner of King Street and Water Lane. Or to be precise it’s 1, 1a and 1b King Street (namely Santander, M&Co and Superdrug) and 2/4 Water Lane (the car park area behind the bank). The intention? To open up the corner of Water Lane, King Street and Church Street into more of a plaza-like thing, and make better use of the area behind Santander. This is likely to involve linking up the space with the service road that runs along the top of the Jubilee Gardens. Furthermore, by giving the Council ownership of all the land between King Street and Twickenham Embankment it would allow for a more coherent approach to improving and developing this valuable piece of Twickenham’s riverside. And that’s the tricky part, ‘improving’ is not always the same as ‘developing’ and one person’s exciting new development is another’s blot on the landscape. Needless to say any building project won’t be without cost and involving a commercial partner whose objectives might not be quite to the liking of every single person in Twickenham who’s ever held an opinion could present some challenges. Remember the plans for the pool site? Course you do, but we live in hope.
There might also be some who wonder how the Council can start buying up land during a recession but with the plot on the market, it does feel like a real opportunity for El Brute to invest in something that will help deliver a long-term improvement for Twickenham. And, when it comes to considering the options in detail, keeping the huge asset that is Twickenham’s river frontage open for the enjoyment of residents and visitors alike should be at the top of the list.
More on this story to follow. Probably.
* Richmond Council papers on the plan
* Richmond Council Cabinet Agenda
* Twickenham Riverside Blog – background on the site
And so there we have it. Solum Regeneration’s plans for Twickenham station will go ahead after all. Well, we say ‘after all’ but there’s no sense of surprise here at twickerati HQ in the light of today’s Court announcement chucking out TRAG’s appeal against the scheme’s approval. None.
A station. In Twickenham
When El Brute (that’s ‘LBRuT’ to the uninitiated) approved the plans in December 2011 amid rowdy scenes at York House, that moment marked the end of any serious opportunity to get the development changed. Local Twickenham agitators, TRAG, have battled hard to get the Council’s decision reversed, first through a judicial review and then by taking their case to the Court of Appeal but today’s ruling surely marks the end of the line for opposition to the scheme. Or rather, it marks the end of the line for any credible means of getting the development changed.
Lord True is delighted. Can you picture his smiling face? In the Richmond Council Press Release the Blue Baron, the Duke of York [House], the Dear Leader says: “I welcome the Court’s decision today and I hope that we can finally lay this matter to rest and move forward with creating a train station that is fit for purpose”. In fact we agree with most of that. Despite all the shenanigans and the flaws in the Solum plan, it is time to move on.
If you’ve got a bit of spare time and you want to help people in your local community, you could do a lot worse than have a wander down to the Richmond Volunteering Fair on Thursday 9th May. What’s going on? Good question, glad you asked. There will be over 35 organisations and charities showcasing what they do and looking for new volunteers. Whether it’s helping out with arty stuff, young people’s stuff, old people’s stuff, health stuff, environmental stuff or just some other kind of stuff there’s likely to be something that suits you. We’re talking ’bout the likes of Age UK, Orleans House Gallery, Richmond Carers’ Centre, River Thames Boat Project, Victim Support, Shooting Star Chase and loads more. It all takes place at Clarendon Hall, York House and runs from 1.00pm to 7.00pm. Drop on by, why don’t you?
* The Richmond Volunteering Fair
The concept of an indoor market in Twickenham sounds intriguing. When local resident Alan Winter wrote to the Richmond & Twickenham Times about his idea and also posted details about it on the ‘Your News’ section of twickerati
Twickenham. More spark needed. Apply within.
it generated a good deal of interest. In fact, here at twickerati
HQ we thought it warranted a place on the front page of the site. So, with plenty of lively debate on here and elsewhere about the state of our high streets, we hand over to Alan to explain his idea and how it could work. Oh, and he’d like your support too…
“An indoor community market. Could it happen in Twickenham? I think it could. Since floating the idea a month ago I have received messages of goodwill and support for the idea from many people. The positive response has encouraged me to pursue the vision as an active project. Here’s why and how it would work…
Heath Road now hosts an unacceptable number of empty retail and commercial properties. In the 50′s and 60′s this was a busy and varied shopping area with many specialist shops. It is now a sad looking entry route from the west into Twickenham, full of eateries that often don’t last very long or estate agents, barber shops and charity shops. The road is ripe for some serious thinking on a subject that was previously dropped when Poundland took over the then vacant Woolworth site.
So let’s consider the idea of a midweek and weekend indoor market. The idea here is a simple one. The empty shops that are all clustered around Rubens excellent bakery are empty for a reason. These are some of the smallest retail units in Heath Road. Traditionally they would have been taken on by budding entrepreneurs and start-up businesses but in today’s climate these units represent too much of a financial risk for a start-up. Business rates and rents are coming in at a minimum of £20,000 p.a. This is before shop fitting, stocking, insurance and utility costs.
So we need somewhere for the small retail business person to get a foot in the door. Hence Twickenham Indoor Market. Stallholders would be local resident entrepreneurs and craft persons who are unable to afford current retail rents and business rates but who would like somewhere to try out and sell their wares…
There’s nothing like an airport to bring out the nimby in us all. Well, maybe that or a nuclear power plant… or a new abattoir. Or perhaps even a nuclear powered abattoir with a giant picture of TV’s Nick Knowles on the side? How d’ya like them apples?!
Although Howard Davies is not due to report on Heathrow expansion until after the next election, funny dat, the war of words rumbles on with claim and counter claim from the various lobby groups. Residents and local authorities are fretting about increased noise levels from a third – and possibly fourth – runway. Millions if not billions of Londoners lives will be ruined by the roar of jet engines overhead as we all gag on a smog of aviation exhaust. Airport and business types tell us that’s all a load of scaremongering and that the extra capacity will give us a much-needed economic boost as futuristic planes take-off and land with about as much noise as feather colliding with a big fluffy ball of cotton wool at 2 miles per hour.
In other words, we can we believe any of them? Dunno. So what’s the latest anyway? The 2M Group which represents local authorities concerned about the environmental impact of Heathrow on their communities, and which includes our very own Richmond Council, has warned that, “A four-runway Heathrow could blight the lives of three million people and spoil the quiet enjoyment of huge parts of our city”. This would represent a mahoosive increase from the 1 million currently estimated to be affected. Earlier this week the Evening Standard published a ‘noise contour’ map produced by 2M showing the full noise impact of four runways. Twickenham’s already affected by noise but more runways would lead to changing flight paths and potentially more disruption. For many other areas it could lead to significant increases. Needless to say pro-airport lobbyists rubbished the map saying that the runways would not necessarily in those specific positions and that, hey, maybe just the three runways would be enough thanking you kindly.
Who’s right and what’s to be done? Well, the battle of claim and counter claim, political lobbying and carefully placed press briefings will continue. That’s a given. And as part of all of that local(ish) MP Zac Goldsmith is helping organise a so-called “mega-rally” on 27th April to show the strength of opposition to Heathrow expansion. Although it’s billed as an all-party affair with a range of speakers, Boris will show up to steal some limelight. Make of that what you will. Time to get your placards out and start waving them around? And no Boris, that’s not a euphemism.
The mega-rally takes place from 9.30am-10.30am at Barn Elms Playing Fields, Barnes, SW13 9SA.
* Evening Standard ‘Exclusive’
* 2M Group
* Zac Goldsmith and his Heathrow Mega Rally
Richmond Council has launched yet another consultation. This time it’s about stepping up the work to regenerate and re-brand Twickenham. The initiative, which will form part of the overarching Twickenham Area Action Plan (aka the TWAP), is designed to promote the town as an attractive destination for businesses and tourists as well as boosting residents’ perceptions of their own community. External consultants were brought in to produce a blueprint of how best to make Twickenham an attractive visitor destination and promote inward investment. Residents will now be asked to have their say.
The main proposal, which is likely to cause anger in some quarters is to radically re-brand the town by reflecting its status as the home of Richmond Council.
Strawberry Hill is up in arms, the natives with their strange customs are revolting and beautiful maidens are fainting at the thought of Horace Walpole spinning in his grave. Is it the plot of a recently discovered gothic novel? No, it’s the latest edition of the Strawberry Hill Residents Association’s newsletter. It majors on a boundary dispute that’s rocking the Hill and putting other territorial conflicts around the world into the shade. The SHRA is outraged that Twickenham has launched a vicious land grab on parts of Strawberry Hill under the auspices of Richmond Council’s ‘village plans’.
It ain’t over ‘til it’s over… again. The Battle for Twickenham Station took another turn yesterday when the Court of Appeal gave TRAG permission to appeal December’s High Court decision in favour of El Brute’s approval of the Solum scheme. According to the TRAG website, “Lord Justice Sullivan declared that he believes one of the grounds within our overall appeal argument “has a real prospect of success””. He does, does he?
The flaws in the Solum scheme are well documented. TRAG (aka Twickenham Residents Action Group) hate the whole thing. Others, including this actual very website, think it has a few good aspects but that it also misses quite a few tricks in terms of functionality and design. A bit of a missed oppotunity to build something really great for Twickenham, if you will. Some like it. And, let’s face it, some aren’t bothered as long as the new station ends up being better than the current one.
So will TRAG actually appeal and pursue their quest for a low rise alternative to Solum’s mish-mash of modern blocks and faux-Georgian terrace? They’d bloody love to. But they need money and lawyers don’t come cheap. If they do raise the funds and they do appeal and they do then win, there’s still a bit of a way to go. TRAG will probably need to show there’s sufficient current support for their low-rise vision given that the Council’s original planning approval was well over a year ago. El Brute will then need to twist Solum’s arm to ‘encourage’ them to revamp their scheme in line with the Council’s own planning framework. Maybe Solum will then launch an appeal? Who knows? Oh, and the RFU will probably want to have some kind of influence, what with the Rugby World Cup coming up in 2015 etc, etc. It could all happen but it does feel like a long way off at the moment.
So, is it time to move on and just get this thing built, or is it time to fight on? You live around here, you decide.
OK, so you’re bored with the same old discussions and arguments on here about new schools in the area. Even if you don’t admit it to yourself, we can still sense it from the way your eyes are already glazing over as you read these very wordzzzzz. We’ll be brief, so very brief. More brief than a lawyer, carrying a brief case whilst sporting a particularly brief pair of briefs. A bit like Michael Mansfield QC in Speedos. It’s a troubling image, you’ll surely agree.
Friday 1st March was ‘national offer day’ for places at state secondary schools. It’s probably the kind of day when the captain of the Tracy Island chess club, Michael Gove, pats himself on the back and, as a reward for a job well done, vows to make ‘O’ Level Ancient Greek a compulsory part of the national curriculum. In our fair town it was the day when many parents and their Year 6 children found out which schools they will be attending next September (well, only the children will be attending, obviously). El Brute was happy, issuing a press release to confirm that 72% of children secured places at their first choice of school and that 91% were offered a place at one of their top three preferences. That’s good news, and both figures are higher than their equivalents last year.
COUNCIL TAX FREEZE
And in other news, the Dear Leaders in York House have announced that council tax in the borough will be frozen again this year. Good news for residents feeling the squeeze of continued recession. In the accompanying press release, Deputy Leader of Richmond Council, Geoffrey Samuel [for whom we don't yet have a nickname but are now working flat out to deal with that] said: “Over the past three years we have had an intensive efficiency programme, which has already generated more than £20m of savings… Further savings must be made and our plans include a further £10m+ savings in the next 2 years. Our aim will remain to deliver the lowest possible increase in Council Tax whilst maintaining or improving the services that residents tell us they value the most”.
It’s that tricky old balancing act between keeping residents onside in terms of the bills we pay, prioritising and delivering services (where one person’s irrelevance can be another’s crucial piece of council support) and responding to the cuts in local authority funding being passed down from Westminster. So, that good news on council tax bills for the majority of residents could be less good for those where services are reduced or where savings have a direct impact on jobs, especially if it’s your job.
Yep, it sure is tricky! And that is why we say ‘good luck with all of that’, to Mr Samuel, the Deputy Dear Leader of El Brute and Cabinet Member for Finance or, to use his new street name… G-Sam.
* Richmond Council – Council Tax Freeze
TEDDINGTON LOCK BRIDGE REPAIRS
We usually leave Teddington matters to those in the know, namely the Teddington Town website. But, FYI, the footbridge over Teddington Lock will be closed for lighting repairs in March. Panic not, oh little ones. Or rather, don’t panic excessively, because it will only be closed during weekdays and even then will still be open for morning and afternoon school rush hours. Does the bridge have a rush hour? Probably not, but it will be open to let school types and others use it. Closure will be between 4th & 28th March, from 9.30am and 3.30pm on Mondays through to Fridays.
* El Brute & The Footbridge