If you have opinions on the future development around Twickenham station then you’d better be quick about getting them in.The Council is consulting on how it should deal with developments in the area and the deadline for comments is 27th August. Most residents will agree that the station area needs some work but by no means all are convinced that the proposed station scheme is the way to do it and that’s why it is important to have your say on the Council’s approach.
Twickenham is a busy, primarily residential suburb. It’s not even Richmond let alone Croydon. The Council’s “Supplementary Planning Document” for the station and surrounding area goes into detail about what might and might not be good in any development. It says the height “should not exceed 4/5 storeys on any part of the site”. That doesn’t sound unreasonable. However the “iconic” Regal House is 10 storeys (before taking account of the load of junk on the roof) and the hotel which is going to be tacked on to the side of it will reach the same height in parts. Why worry? Well it’s not Richmond Council based round the corner on York Street but the Planning Inspectorate based down the M4 in Bristol who have the higher authority in local planning decisions. So, whilst the Council’s design standards have a lot of sensible ideas in them, when it comes to specific applications they may not have the final say in the matter. And there’s nothing like a bit of a precedent to persuade a committee or inspector to give a project the green light, especially if they’re being oh so very detached and objective in the matter.
Not just Twickers
The station proposals themselves come from Solum Regeneration, a joint venture between Network Rail and Kier Property as part of a project which includes developments at Epsom and Walthamstow. In other words this is a big money scheme and there’s just a tiny, tiny chance that Solum are prepared to dig deep to make it happen regardless of how many planning hoops they need to go through. Their plans have already been approved to a very mixed response in Epsom . In fact CABE, the Government’s own advisers on urban planning, were distinctly unimpressed by the Solum plan using phrases like “low quality”, and “lack of ambition about the improvements in public space outside the station” in their report. CABE’s conclusion included the line, “In our view this approach is not acceptable, and should not be rolled out to the other stations where Kier and Network Rail are in partnership”. Ouch!
It’s also been causing a lot of heated debate over in the Walthamstow where their fight the height campaign is giving it plenty of webtime. “Too high” and “not appropriate to the area” are becoming a bit of a theme here.
Having your say
The Solum project might seem unstoppable but it’s not too late to have a say in Twickenham. And remember folks that the planned hotel adjoining Regal House was initially rejected but then granted on appeal and so every opinion counts on the planning framework for that part of the town.
So, if you want to support a Solum type of vision for Twickenham station (10 storeys of building, 170 flats) then you can tell the Council to go easy with their SPD.
If you actually think that having another 10 storey block on top of Twickenham Station is not such a good thing, would not add much to the town, and would set a precedent for similar developments on other plots in the area then you might want to add your voice to that.
In fact some locals have been getting mightily agitated. TRAG may sound like a south American rebel movement but it’s actually the Twickenham Residents Action Group and even then there’s still a suggestion of training camps in deepest Bushy Park about it. But they’re not just blogging about it, TRAG’s “save our skyline” campaign has been out on the streets in Twickenham to raise awareness of the issue and the short time left in which to make representations to the Council.
Of course, when it comes to Solum’s own plans, there’s always a chance that the developers are expecting to get their idea knocked back down to a five storey block and that the locals will be obliged to be thankful for small mercies but if you don’t want to take the chance of Solum Towers and the like gracing our skyline for the next 40 years then speak up now.