(Just want the RFU update bit? It’s at the end of the item)
You’ll already know that Solum Regeneration’s planning application for their station development has been submitted to Richmond Council. You might know that it’s been “validated” by Council planning types and you’re maybe thinking, “So, what now?” Well, the “what now” is that we’re in the “neighbourhood consultation phase” and it’s a phase that doesn’t last long. In English? If you want to object, comment or even support the plans, you should log your views with the Council now. Go on, get it done by the end of February.
This site has already covered the station issue. A lot. But not nearly as much as TRAG’s main campaign site. And now’s the time to have your say. Were Solum planning to build a waste incinerator on top of the station or open a glue factory in the ticket hall then objecting to the plans would be a straightforward decision. But what we have here almost amounts to divide & rule. Most people favour development of the station. All of them will have a slightly different view on what it should look like but how many really want a collection of buildings that will be as tall as Regal House in places, and where parts sits closer to the road than Regal House and pratically overhang the pavement? Let’s be fair here, some of the artists impressions of the development look not dissimilar to a multi-storey car park. We like modern, oh yes. We even think the vague gist of what Solum is trying to do is right, but… ten storeys high? 165 flats? a “vibrant plaza” that’s just, well, a space? Come on! Lower, less dense and better, please.
In fact you can get a better summary of the issues on TRAG’s page here. It’s worth a read given that Solum have been handing out their own PR puff. For example, culled from their “community newsletter” comes this paragraph: “Some residents told us: There is not enough parking provided. In response: This is a concern to some residents whereas others could appreciate the amount of proposed parking would mean traffic in the area would not increase. Solum’s proposal is to retain the parking spaces for station use, and provide three spaces for a car share scheme and three more for residential blue badge holders. We continue to promote this mix which is backed by local policy, as the site benefits from very strong local transport links”.
You what? We think this might possibly mean: “Many local residents thought that 165 flats would require some parking spaces. They thought not having any parking would cause congestion in the area and parking problems in adjacent streets. But we know better than you. Three car pool spaces and three blue badge spaces is enough. Why? It’s enough because we said so! And anyway, nobody who ever lived near a station ever owned a car did they? DID THEY?”
Unfortunately Solum are right that policy is not big into encouraging car use by providing parking spaces. However, when objections are supplemented by concerns over traffic generation, highway safety, etc then they should carry weight in the decision making process.
And while we’re on the subject of objecting (or supporting, of course) the plans, remember that the Council can only take account of ‘material planning considerations’ such as:
* Loss of light or overshadowing
* Overlooking/loss of privacy
* Visual amenity (but not loss of private view)
* Adequacy of parking/loading/turning
* Highway safety
* Traffic generation
* Layout and density of building
* Design, appearance and materials
* Proposals in the Development Plan
[And note that Richmond’s own Supplementary Planning Document recommends a maximum of 4 or 5 storeys on the station site]
Solum’s plans for stations in Walthamstow and Epsom met with vocal local (yokel?) opposition and had their quality criticised by CABE, the government’s advisor on the built environment. Can we afford to have the same standards imposed here? Just about everyone would like to see an improved station and better use of the site but it must be appropriate for the town. And it needs to work not just for Twickenham residents and businesses but for tens of thousands of fans on rugby days as well.
This development will be a landmark gateway for Twickenham for the next 40 years. Solum can afford to get it wrong (construct, sell, move on) but can Twickenham?
UPDATE: RFU petition for a decent station
If you haven’t yet given your views to the Council then it’s time to do it. Meanwhile the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have launched an online petition to lobby for a station that is fit to cope with tens of thousands of fans visiting Twickenham for the Rugby World Cup in 2015. They’re calling on Network Rail, DCMS, Richmond Council and just about anyone else with an interest to help make this happen. The RFU is an influential body and the 2015 world cup will provide great opportunities for the town. Let’s hope their involvement can help Twickenham get the station it deserves (by which we mean a good one!). The RFU have indicated that they are neutral on specific plans and want a new station in place by 2015 – a wise position at this stage, but people might ask why lobby on this point unless they have some concerns about aspects of the current proposals? Solum’s plans, in which tall buildings push right up to London Road, do little to address the massing of rugby crowds or the need for a significantly improved transport interchange for buses, taxis, Boris Bikes, wind-powered trams, monorails, etc. Like the RFU, we’re aiming for a bright future for Twickenham station and not just a tall one!
You can see, sign and comment on the RFU’s petition here.
If you want to email links around then these shorties make it a bit more manageable:
* Main planning page: http://bit.ly/dMRhii
* Planning page, with comments received to date: http://bit.ly/gHNG0k
* To object / comment: http://bit.ly/dLMAEH