Council to put the boot(ique) into Heatham House?

Heatham House Youth Centre

Heatham House, Twickenham’s much respected centre for yoof activities is under threat from El Brute. One of the ideas to regenerate and transform Twickenham that has sneaked onto the post-All-in-One Twickenham Area Action Plan is to sell off the Grade II listed building for use as a boutique hotel or posh flats. Apparently an alternative facility for the young folk of Twickenham would be provided somewhere else. This “somewhere else” has yet to be fully defined but the initial proposal is for it to form part of the future redevelopment of the old Royal Mail sorting office site. That sounds like something that could happen… several years in the future.

Here’s a simple question… why? Heatham House does a decent job at bringing young people together, getting them involved in activities like music, drama and sport and generally doing good stuff. Sure, it’s a nice building but do we need to turn over every nice building for the exclusive use of the rich folk who want to stay in the latest boutique hotels? No doubt, there are sound financial arguments for doing so but turning a successful centre for Twickenham’s young people into a place where the only time they’ll visit is to work in the “boutique” kitchens does not sound like a great idea. And most importantly, with no clear alternative provision on offer, we could end up with a half-cocked interim “solution” or, worse still “in these difficult times”, we could end up with nothing at all.

So far, the Council’s various consultations have had their best response from the older generation. At a time when there’s a chance that the future of Twickenham gets decided by people with grey hair and sensible shoes, is removing one of the few things that’s actually popular with young people the best way to get them involved with the regeneration the town? Probably not. Perhaps it’s just a straw man to engage young people in the debate. We doubt it, but if so it seems to be working.

We’ll be covering the Twickenham Area Action Plan in more detail soon, but in the meantime, if you want to have your say on Heatham House you can add your comments below. And if you’re in favour of keeping it in its current use then there’s an online petition doing the rounds.

* Petition on LBRuT website is here
* Lobby site for Friends of Heatham House
* Council’s Heatham House page is here


Filed under Council

21 responses to “Council to put the boot(ique) into Heatham House?

  1. Jon

    Turning Heatham House into a luxery hotel will be a very damaging process for the building. Lots of internal alterations will need to be made, resulting in a great loss of orginal material.

    Heatham House is important culturally, as its an important part of our heritage, and gutting it, bashing though walls, and building new wings in the garden will considerable devalue its historical value.

  2. Gareth Roberts

    Well one doesn’t want to get drawn into a vulgar online brawl with Councillor Naylor but he seems to think that the borough’s youth should, in some way, be segregated. Those who live in Hampton must therefore use Hampton facilities which is, of course, piffle of the first order. Heatham House is a facility which young people from across the borough are free to use and isn’t restricted to just those people in Twickenham. I suppose one can understand why Councillor Naylor would leap to his characteristically simplistic reading of the situation but I would have thought he would have done his homework just a little.

    One can only assume that the regular repetition of Hampton is to suggest Heatham House isn’t in my ward and therefore none of my concern. The trouble is it isn’t in his ward either.

    Constructive suggestions? Listen to the users of Heatham House and don’t flog it off to provide luxury accommodation on a riverside location. Oh and do something slightly more engaging than simply offering an inadequate and patronising 2 hours of consultation which has clearly been rushed through as an afterthought.

  3. Scott Naylor

    Cllr Roberts is a LibDem Councillor for Hampton, who have their own Youth facilities.

    As your Councillor for Twickenham Riverside, I am in close contact with The Chair of Friends of Heatham House and the previous manager Mike Rowe.

    The above statement copied from the Richmond Council website by Yvonne Hewitt sums up the position precisely. Let the youth expand on way they want, and let there be many more than just the present users, the idea is to see what other ideas are out there to factor in, look at what can be enhanced, and to look with open eyes at what could be created.

    One other major factor, the Post Office site is being sold, the bids are in, and we shall soon see who has bought the site, hence the engagement with the community ahead of any engagement of Councillors and Planning Officers. I will always looking for full pre-planning engagement with the Developers, at least two but most likely four or more fully open public meetings to bring their first thoughts for a site of this size with so many facets and relationships to consider to assist shape their ideas and those of the townsfolk.

    This site borders onto the overall corridor of the River Crane, and the conduit FORCE have planned along with the Post Office to ensure a proper route can be made to the heart of Twickenham Town from as far as four or five miles away, the Twickenham Station relationship and the opportunity this site brings to better manage matchday huge numbers which force London Road road closures, something not addressed so far in any satisfactory way, and then the relationship with Heatham House and grounds, including the obvious one of the Council owned land directly behind the Post Ofice buildings, presently used as a lit five a side football pitch, an unlit basketball court, and an outdoor skateboard area.

    There are clear opportunities for many parties here, not just any one group, and we as custodians for this complex jigsaw, would the residents expect a total lack of leadership and just accept what the developers want, and to build ten storeys across the site as per the previous administration’s time-bomb legacy, or would you want your engagement with a forward thinking new administration who are putting up a framework for future developments and opportunities for the benefit of residents whilst leveraging and working with property owners who have a right to build on their land.

    I am delighted to have questions asked to provoke positive ideas. Cllr Roberts of Hampton so far you have added nothing positive to this debate, what positive ideas do you have for the future for these complex issues? Where by the way are your ex colleagues from Twickenham Riverside?

    Cllr Scott Naylor
    Twickenham Riverside
    Deputy Chairman Planning Committee
    07973 186183

  4. Yvonne Hewett

    The council has come up with a response to the petition to keep Heatham House going as a youth centre. It’s at
    It says, essentially, don’t panic, though that’s no reason to relax. I’ll be very interested in seeing the development brief for the Sorting Office site.

    Richmond Council wording:
    “There is no Council plan to remove a youth facility in Twickenham. There has been no Council decision to close Heatham House. This Council will retain permanently a key youth facility in central Twickenham that has access to a significant green area. Any suggestion otherwise is totally without foundation.

    As part of the Twickenham Area Action Plan, Richmond Council is looking at ways to regenerate the whole of Twickenham after 25 years of neglect, including the sorting office, High Street and riverside areas.

    Ideas for the regeneration follow on from a series of public events and consultations held last year. All the feedback has been considered and compiled into three scenarios of improvements. These are currently out for consultation with all residents in Twickenham, including young people.

    As and when the Post Office site is redeveloped, there will be money to invest in new community facilities. One proposal is that this might, for the first time ever, fund a new, purpose-built youth facility, designed with the young people of the Borough. Should a new Heatham House youth centre be provided in the future, there would be a feasibility study and full consultation with young people. Present users of Heatham House are only one group of youth stakeholders whose voice needs to be heard.

    A new Heatham House would be DDA compliant, as Heatham House is not; it would also enable facilities that cannot be provided in a centuries-old listed building.

    To have a modern purpose-built youth centre would be a one-off opportunity that will not recur. This Council believes that option should not be denied to the young people of the future, without the fullest consideration on the basis of facts.

    The existing Heatham House would under no circumstances be closed, unless and until the new purpose-built youth centre had been opened on the adjacent site in the Post Office site redevelopment.

    Young people aged 11-19 are invited to come and here more about the Twickenham Area Action Plan at an event on the 20th July at Richmond College from 5pm – 7pm. For more information, go to:

  5. DD

    The Richmond Free School has formally announced that its preferred site is Twickenham Sorting Office( Presumably the relocated facilities from Heatham House could fit quite easily within a school setting, so perhaps that is what the council have in mind. Just a thought.

  6. Gareth Roberts

    Wow! Two whole hours. They’re really pushing the consultation boat out on this one!

  7. YOUNG people who live, work, socialise or go to school in Twickenham are invited to have their say about the proposals outlined in the Twickenham Area Action Plan this month, at an event specifically organised for people aged 11-19.
    . . At an event at Richmond upon Thames College on Wednesday July 20 from 5 pm – 7 pm, young people aged 11-19 are invited to come and see the plans, meet with the consultants and ask any questions that they have regarding the three stages of improvement that have been put forward for discussion. For more information about the Twickenham Area Action Plan Youth Meeting, email:

  8. If a replacement can be built which provides better facilities then great – but I doubt it can. Heatham House, although not designed for its purpose, has somehow come out brilliantly. It has large grounds for playing football, a big performance space in the hangar next to it – which could be used for proper gigs, it can hold around 800 i’d say.

    The house itself is great too – it’s just worked out really nicely inside. Several rehearsal spaces for bands, a recording studio, pool tables, lounge etc. I think we have one of the best youth clubs in London, and the council should be very proud of that. If anything it needs more promotion.

    • Yvonne Hewett

      I agree with Danny – there’s no way a location on the sorting office site, where the developer wants to maximise profit on every square metre, would provide equivalent space to that in the house and the land behind it, and on the other side of the Crane. There’s a lot of property there, and it’s being put to good use, right now. Lets keep it that way.

  9. Some good points here.

    A while ago there were plans for a hotel very near the high street (effectively behind Blockbusters) and those plans were being fought (why?!?!) by the Conservative candidate at the time Deborah Thomas.

    I used to go to HH back in the day to play football etc. I agree with some of the comments above. Yes it provides a great service for young people but the reality is that this service is not unique and Twickenham town is in dire need of investment.

  10. Gawain

    I can’t think that the layout of or facilities at Heatham House are exactly optimal for young persons’ activities. And it is an historic and listed building. Why not provide customised band/rehearsal/acting etc. space in a new or converted large and flexible space and allow HH to be conserved sensitively? Why is everyone so reactionary and conservative (small c)on this?

    • Obvious: they fear the loss of the existing facility, good enough, and then an announcement that the new facility will not be provided, austerity, don’tcha know, blah blah . . As happened in Heathfield thanks to the change of administration.

    • Telemachus

      Sounds a bit like Richmond Ice rink too Chris.
      How about building the new facility first (with input from the youth club) and then converting the house to a ’boutique’ hotel (awful phrase…just means a modest hotel charging exorbitant prices) after the new super-duper facility is built.

    • The Richmond ice rink [in East Twickenham actually] was privately owned; it closed when its owners decided to retire and sold it to a developer. Local politicians promised that ‘skating will return to Richmond’; the Lib Dem council found a site on Old Deer Park [which is Crown land] and a private firm to run it but was unable to persuade the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club, who naturally didn’t want the ice rink next door, to be helpful in creating safe access onto the A316. So nothing came of the scheme.

    • Telemachus

      Irregardless of the politics, the ice rink fulfilled an important social role to the area. Young people were able to meet in a rather unique way, and I know one couple who are now retired who met at the rink and have been married for 50 years. There also was the Olympic aspect to the rink with the ice skaters training there. Who knows what might be happening there today if the rink or a new rink still existed. Perhaps a Richmond Ice hockey team? Olympic skating champions, Christmas on ice shows. Good exercise etc.

      My point is if these facilities are taken away or not adequately replaced is it surprising that young people will meet and socialise in public places or bars because these are the only places available? Rather than social relationships formed soberly with a common interest, could it be that youngsters are being forced into bars and pubs to meet?

      To be honest I really do not know, but Heatham House provides an alternative and like the ice rink has seen it’s fair share of partnerships formed over the years. There are now parents who met at Heatham House with children that might be denied the same opportunity to meet in a creative environment.

  11. Gareth Roberts

    I don’t intend to get into a slanging match with Mark as it will detract from this important issue. I do think, however, it’s important to correct the rather misleading impression given about Heathfield Library. It was always the intention that Heathfield Library should be recreated in either the rebuilt Twickenham Academy or in the proposed rebuild of Heathfield School. £400,000 was set aside to create a temporary full library provision at Heathfield School until such time as the new library was built.

    It was entirely the decision of the Conservative administration at York House to pull the plug on the process. Had the Lib Dems retained the council in 2010 then full library provision would still exist in Heathfield.

  12. Boss

    Regardless of your views on Heatham House and the need for youth services, an upmarket hotel with a bit of style would be a major boost for Twix centre. We have a lot to offer the visitor, not just rugby, but not much when it comes to accommodation. The new Travelodge by the station doesn’t inspire much.

    If there was more clarity on what alternatives are being offered for the kids, then this might not be the worst thing to ever happen to Twickenham.

  13. Mr Roberts is right and I will write to all of the people who signed the first petition (that I set up) to ask them to add their name to the council one.

    My concern is that Heatham House will go the same way as Heathfield Library. Which showed the Tories up for how they really feel about public services and the Liberal Democrats and Vince Cable up for their brass hypocrisy.

  14. I don’t know anything about Heatham House, but it sounds like it provides a great service for young people. Surely the petition and campaign shouldn’t be about “no to any change” but rather “how can we ensure the same or better facilities for young people continue to be provided in central Twickenham?”. If that can be done – without any gaps in service – and the Council can make some money from selling the current building, then what’s the problem? The Council should make it a condition of the sale that the buyers of Heatham House provide the new facilities for young people upfront, so that they don’t have to move out until they’re available.

  15. Thanks for some good writing!
    As someone who’s already signed up, “FoHH” sends a newsletter, by e-mail. Please head to the link above for more info’!

  16. Gareth Roberts

    On the Save Heatham House campaign, if you want to support them via the ePetition route then you will need to do so via the council’s website as this is the ONLY online petition that they recognise
    Tell your friends!