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.