Oh dear. That wasn’t supposed to happen, was it? And yet, at the same time, it was all so predictable. The results of the El Brute consultation on its Twickenham riverside and town square proposals have been published and it seems that the locals are not hugely impressed. So much for ‘design competitions’, pop up shops and positive spin from York House, the regency style scheme featuring amphitheatre, colonnade, shops and up to 40 flats does not seem to have wowed the twickerati (that’s you lot by the way).
The results have been analysed by ‘customer feedback solutions’ gurus Snap Surveys who probably know more about this kind of thing than you do and it’s pretty clear that the negative responses far outweigh the positive ones. The accompanying LBRuT press release says, “The Council and the architects will now carry out a detailed review of the ideas and comments put forward by the public before coming forward with ideas for development”. It goes on to say that the Council ‘understands’ it needs to reconsider its approach to a number of areas. It certainly does.
Although like any survey the results are open to interpretation, some things stand out very clearly in the themes that Snap Surveys focused on. Of 754 responses received there were just 93 comments that felt the plans met the needs of the local community. That’s 12%. Not great, especially when the purpose of the plan was (and we hope still is) to regenerate the site and open up the town centre to the river. Twenty comments in the 754 were positive about the architecture. That’s 3% which, in case you’re not too good at maths, is not great either. As for the amphitheatre, 35 comments liked that. It’s true that calculating percentages out of themed responses isn’t exactly scientific even if it is fun, so do start taking pinches of salt when you get your calculator out.
In contrast to those making positive responses, negative comments about the impact on the riverside totalled 189 and a similar number, 174, felt that the plan did not meet local needs. As for the design, 142 comments didn’t like that and 117 were negative about its proposed height. In other words, on almost every count the negatives significantly outweighed the positives. This might be expected when so many people have different ideas about what should be done to the site but the lack of local enthusiasm for the proposal is telling.
The report also includes plenty of quotes from you lot, both the positive ones and the many negative ones from those who think the concept falls short of what is required. Feel free to trawl through them to see if your response made it in to print. Architecture that is “derivative and out of scale, and of no relevance to anything existing in Twickenham”. Ouch. A development that is “overwhelmed by the pretentious and overpowering buildings”. Double ouch. Residential development, access to the river, underground car parks, it goes on.
On the plus side, it does have a few fans and the greater pedestrianisation of Embankment is welcomed. As for commenting on the ‘naysayers’, well, someone did say, “Please ignore all the moaning minnies who will say it is ‘out of character’, by building this you will give Twickenham more character! I wish this was happening in Teddington!” Some cynics might wonder if all those ‘moaning minnies’ in TW1 and TW2 also wish it was happening in Teddington rather than Twickenham. It’s just a thought.
What next? The Council has said that it will review the feedback and that a further consultation on amended proposals is being planned for the summer. Will those proposals be ‘amended’ enough to meet widespread local approval? It seems unlikely. From the feedback so far it feels like a major re-think of the whole scheme is required rather than just minor amendments. Perhaps the next survey question should be, “Will LBRuT listen?”