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.
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.
These photos come from the excellent Britain From Above website which features hundreds of aerial photographs of Britain taken between 1919 and 1953.
Here are just two of many local pictures. The first one shows central Twickenham in 1928. Note the station to the west of the road bridge, no sign of the Royal Mail sorting office which is about to be redeveloped (ooh, topical) and a very sleepy looking London Road.
Twickenham Junction, 1928
And how about this from the days before rugby became big business and when Whitton and north Twickenham was mostly fields.
Twickenham Rugby Ground, 1927
* Britain from Above (Twickenham search results)
And on twickerati
* More insights into Twickenham’s history
* Collecting your Twickenham Memories
n.b. These photos have been used under Britain From Above’s policy on non-commercial ‘blogging’ use. See their site for details of the permissions and restrictions on using their images. And yes, we hope we’ve complied properly.
The Richmond & Twickenham Times is reporting that TRAG, the Twickenham Residents’ Action Group, are seeking permission to appeal the judicial review decision on Solum Regeneration’s Twickenham station plan. You will recall that the latest twist in this long running saga was in December when the court ruled El Brute’s approval of Solum’s plan to be lawful. TRAG were not impressed. They are still hoping for their low rise ‘Plan B’ alternative to become the template for the redevelopment of the site and have now applied to the Court of Appeal for the right to challenge the outcome of the judicial review.
Any appeal, if it goes ahead, would add further delay to the development although obsessing about completing work in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup should not be the deciding factor in a station that Twickenham will live with for the next 30 or 40 years. Will TRAG succeed? It feels like a long shot, a very long shot when looking at the powers lined up against them and the costs involved but they may be set to have a go nevertheless.
As they’ll say in the film of this one day, “For you, TRAG, zee war is not yet over!”
* Richmond & Twickenham Times
As if one judicial review wasn’t enough for Richmond Council, there’s only a-bloody-nother one coming along straight afterwards! It’s a bit like trains isn’t it? Funny dat, because this week will see El Brute back in court where its approval of Solum’s Twickenham station development plans will be subjected to the scrutiny of a judge.
No, we’re not talking Dallas although this saga could warrant its own mini-series, we’re talking Twickenham station. El Brute’s approval of the plans to redevelop the station is to go to a judicial review. You will recall that Solum Regeneration’s scheme was given the nod by Richmond’s Planning Committee in December 2011 despite vocal opposition from Twickenham Residents Action Group (aka TRAG) and others, and despite it not appearing to be in line with the height guidelines in the Council’s own planning framework published when it came into office in 2010.
TRAG sought the judicial review on the grounds that when approving the plans, the Council:
- did not take account of a report produced by the Twickenham Advisory Panel, that the Council itself had commissioned. (Whatever did happen to the TAP?)
- did not take account of the ‘policy-compliant’ option for a low-rise development, Plan B
- did not get adequate commitment from the developers to complete the scheme before the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
The Court has agreed that there are grounds for further scrutiny of the decision on the first two of those three points and approval has now been granted for a judicial review to go ahead. The hearing is set to take place in December, one month after the JR on the Catholic school. Two very different Twickenham issues, both controversial and now both subject to judicial reviews. Running a council would be so simple if it were not for other people, eh? It’s certainly going to be a busy time for the Council’s legal team in the run up to Christmas. Meanwhile TRAG are seeking donations to fund their own legal costs.
* Richmond Council (home page)
* Richmond Council
Twickenham station in the news again? It’s just like old times here on twickerati. If brevity is the soul of wit then this ought to be bloody hilarious. But it’s not. Let’s get to it anyway…
In summary, disappointed Fat Controllers are not happy bunnies that their plans to develop Twickenham station are having the brakes applied by local objectors.
In super-summary form, rail bosses say
A quick canter through selected events, in rough chronological order tells us the following:
The current craze for winter ice rinks could reach Twickenham this winter. Perhaps you’re thinking that the seemingly endless dose of rubbish weather is actually the beginning of winter but it’s worth holding onto the hope the summer could still appear at some point. While you’re clinging to that thought, the peeps at TwickenhamAlive, “purveyors of things to do for the people of Twickenham”, have submitted a planning application for a temporary ice rink on the tennis courts at York House. It would run for 6 weeks and add a new option for those who enjoy hobbling around on ice, arms flailing, donning a hat and scarf despite it being 9 degrees, and wearing a facial expression that’s 50% sheer terror, 30% embarrassment, 18% enjoyment and 2% “other”. Brothers and sisters, we’ve all been there! The idea of some post-skate recuperation at nearby hostelries such as the Royal Oak or White Swan doesn’t sound too unpleasant either but best of all, we can’t wait for the inaugural ice hockey match between Lord True’s Conservative Wildcats and Stephen Knight’s Lib Dem Rockets.
Ice rink here?
Somerset House, Hampton Court Palace, Kew Gardens, the Natural History Museum and Hyde Park all host, or have hosted, temporary ice rinks. Why not Twickenham? Do you want one? Will it draw in the punters? Will you be doing your Torville & Dean or your Robin Cousins at York House? In short, are you up for it?
* LBRuT Planning page
Richmond Council has announced that the Boris and his amazing, dancing Greater London Authority will chip in £1.6m towards improvements at Twickenham station. Yay! Free money! What we all gonna spend it on then? Booze??
A station. In Twickenham
Too bad, it’s already allocated. It’s going to be used towards replacing the bridge between the platforms and on various other bits of platform level improvements, such as extending the canopies. These improvements form part of the Section 106 arrangements that El Brute agreed with the developer. LBRuT has indicated that some of the dosh could also be used to revamp the footbridge that crosses from Mary’s Terrace to Cole Park Road. Hooray (again).
Or is it hooray? We all love a bit of ‘free’ money coming our way, right? But one question stands out like a sore thumb… that’s then been hit with a hammer… then slammed in a door. Namely, why do we need grants for this from the GLA when Solum Regeneration recently had their big station development plans approved? One might have expected the joint venture between Network Rail (who ought to know a bit about stations) and Kier Property (who ought to know a bit about buildings) to have cooked up plans for “regeneration” (their word) that improved the “platform experience” as one of its very first principles. It’s a teeny bit disappointing that the GLA (i.e. taxpayers) had to contribute funds to make such basic improvements as part of the large commercial development of the station site. But hey, what do we know? Sure, yes we’d absolutely rather have this money than not and, as it’s coming from other people, who cares, right?
* El Brute Press Release
* Solum Regeneration
It was never going to happen. Boris was never really going to challenge El Brute’s approval of Solum’s plans for Twickenham station, and he hasn’t. Why would he? There’s nothing to be gained for him in kicking up a fuss about plans given the seal of approval by a London Borough controlled by fellow Conservatives. So the Solum freight train rumbles on and we can assume that development will now get going in earnest. And of course, it’s best if it does. Let’s av it! After all the debates, discussions and deliberations, we need our new station up and running as quickly as possible. A much bigger farce than any we’ve seen up to now would be to find that, after all this fuss and the bizarre denouement at December’s Planning Committee, the place is still a building site when the 2015 Rugby World Cup comes to town. The current station needs improving, additional development on the site is a sensible idea, and although Solum’s scheme has some good aspects and falls short on others, it’s the only scheme that’s been approved. Get on with it.
And where now for TRAG? They worked hard to raise awareness of the inadequacies of the scheme, were a little too nimbyish for some, but should be able to take some credit for the minor concessions made by Solum whose final plans are definitely a bit more appropriate than their initial offering. Will TRAG disband or move to focus on new issues? There’s likely to be a fair few given the number of sites up for redevelopment. Or will they go underground, fighting a guerrilla war against the station development in the leafy streets of TW1?
And finally, given that some concerns were expressed that the plans for the station itself (as opposed to the accompanying development) weren’t up to scratch in a number of areas one does have to wonder whether the Network Rail / Kier Property joint venture were sufficiently focused on making the station as good as it could be (yes folks, we’re talking the parts that Twickenham residents, workers and rugby fans use the most) rather than simply maximising the development potential of the site. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and whether the new station is one that’s “just OK” or one that Twickenham can be proud of.
* Richmond & Twickenham Times Item