Twickenham Action Plan: Remember to have your say

Question: Would you like to see Twickenham town centre thriving with a good range of shops, an array of cafes and restaurants, new buildings which feature a balance of business and residential use, and a Riverside public space which is the envy of south west London? Answer: No thanks. Not bothered.

Surprised by that response? Don’t be. It’s not true. What’s not to like about that vision of Twickenham? OK, so the question wasn’t actually taken from the consultation on the Twickenham Area Action Plan but it does sound a teeny bit like one of them. So, assuming the answer to the original question is a “yes”, how do we get hold of this brave new Twickenham?

As you’ll know from previous items on here and via the Council’s own promotional campaign, the Twickenham Area Action plan is out, about and awaiting your highly informed comments. It’s all about where we go next in the regeneration of the town. If you missed the All-in-One follow up session at the Civic Centre in June, then you can still have your say on the plan by completing El Brute’s questionnaire. So, if you’re interested in having your say in shaping the future of Twickenham then here’s your chance. Again. As Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle would say, “Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on!” It’s available online until 22 July. May we be so bold as to suggest that you get a move on. Paper copies are also available. Things might not turn out in line with your vision of utopian Twickenham, but your comments might have some influence.

Before you do the questionnaire it’s worth swotting up on the Area Action plan because it’s a kind of cumulative thing. You’ll get the idea when you read it. We can’t be bothered to do a proper write up so you really do need to read it yourself. But we’re not completely heartless, here’s a précis of an abridged summary of what’s in the plan and the questionnaire.

The publication, “Twickenham Rediscovered” has the obligatory quote from Lord True, the Duke of York (House), to kick things off. It then goes on to talk about “an overall strategy to guide future change and development in the town centre in the period up to 2027”. There’s a bit of Council speak in there with talk of “public realms” and “interventions” (sort of Sleeping Beauty meets The Matrix) but despite these the plan is intelligible to normal people.

It puts forward three scenarios for improving Twickenham. These scenarios are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the three options build on the same ideas. It really boils down to whether you want a to improve what’s already there with development at key sites, like the station and Royal Mail sorting office, or whether you’re up for a major overhaul. As the plan says, option 1 is about “consolidation”, option 2 about “enhancement” and option 3 about “transformation”.

Development site

At the core of all the options is developing the “northern gateway” (Twickenham station, sorting office site, etc), improving the shopping experience around King Street, London Road & York Street, making more public use of York House, and developing the Riverside. For the majority of people it’s going to be a “yes” to all of the above. It’s really only when you look at individual proposals that you might find anything to disagree with. For example the suggestion that Heatham House could be sold off and new facilities for young people provided elsewhere has generated a lot of angst. And just round the corner is the station. Ouch! Everyone wants to see a better station, it’s just a question of how high, how many flats, how few parking spaces, how rugby fans will be dealt with, etc, etc, etc. Fifty metres down the road and whatever your view on the desirability of a rooftop restaurant on Regal House we’re into specifics rather than strategy. The questionnaire seeks your views on the three options as well as some of the detailed ideas within each of them.

As a blueprint, the plan makes a lot of sense. It’s a vision for the town. But, as you’d expect with various tricky issues are glossed over. Traffic is one of them. Improving the shopping experience by widening pavements or pedestrianising parts of the town centre sounds great and always looks good on computer simulations featuring smiling couples pushing buggies past freshly planted saplings, but with the barriers of the river and the railway it’s going to be difficult to find ways to funnel traffic away from the town centre without causing major congestion elsewhere.

And of course there remains the most fundamental question of how it all gets paid for. This is covered only briefly. The Council owns some sites, external public / grant funding may be able to assist with other parts and of course, commercial developers will need to buy into the vision too. When you consider that all these things need to fall into place while keeping local residents and businesses on board then the scale of the task should not be underestimated. In fact, the non-development of Twickenham Riverside over the last 25 years is a good example of how if we’re not careful all those factors can come together to produce absolutely nothing at all. So, perhaps it’s time to learn from that and get some momentum behind moving things forward.

* Twickenham Area Action Plan (Deadline for the online questionnaire about the plan is 22 July)
* There’s also a chance for young people to have their say on 20 July at Richmond College. Details here.


Filed under Council, Local Issues & News, Station Development

11 responses to “Twickenham Action Plan: Remember to have your say

  1. leelcampbell

    Some sneaky question in the survey – thanks for the warning Twickerati – it requires some careful thought.

  2. Anon

    As someone who lived in Twickenham and whose parents lived in one of the watermens cottages on the Embankment can I just make the point that Twickenham was far more interesting before people; the council; Speyhawk, started the various improvements. There were a variety of shops and the Lido was just wonderful for my children, tatty maybe, but great fun. I really don’t see how that atmosphere can be regained but if the swimming pool area could become a permanent park (as Ken Hathaway proposed) that would be a step in the right direction. Is this likely?

  3. Gareth Roberts

    I know its terribly cynical but there are two things which concern me greatly about this whole exercise.

    It has been promoted as a Choice A, Choice B and Choice C rather than a pick and mix option; so if something in Choice C looks appealing you have to have the full package rather than be able to say yes to just that one item. The problem of that approach, of course, is that it rather does leave the door open to weasley backtracking “Well of course we had a vision for Twickenham but the voice of the people told us loud and clear that they weren’t willing to accept (insert contentious issue here) so we had to go with the basic ‘Consolidation’ proposal which didn’t contain that proposal’ – so in spite of lots of public relations hoop-la the Option A is chosen. It’s the municipal equivalent of “Pick a Card, ladies and gentlemen, any card you like” when in reality you didn’t choose a card, it was forced on you by the magician.

    Then there’s the issue of money. Where will it come from? What if people in their droves choose the most exciting option? “We’re grateful to the people who, loud and clear, have told us what they wanted us to do and we will start exploring the way in which funding can be raised to pay for this exciting prospect. This may take some years, so in the meantime we will press ahead with those ‘Consolidation’ measures as outlined in Option A”

    Pick a Card, Ladies and Gentlemen!

  4. Carl

    Responded but good grief what a load of nonsense. Where’re all the customers for all these wonderful new retail and hospitality outlets going to come from?

    Seems more like a council ego trip than anything serious or relevant. The amount of retail outlets already unoccupied needs addressing first, unless the plan is indeed to have outlets desperately dependent on rugby footfall with a collection of ‘to let’ signs nearby.

    Azadeh you want more restaurants and coffee shops? Have you been to the Riverside area where the council want to there to be more of them recently?

    Purely my opinion but the council would be better served making Twickenham an easier and more affordable place to do business, as it is sky high rents in both commercial and residential space, asinine planning regulations and the need to treat Twickenham as one giant conservation area, even the run down parts whose only use as far as conservation goes is testing conservation of angular momentum when on the receiving end of a wrecking ball, has lead to the current situation, which this won’t do a thing to address.

  5. Azadeh

    i would like to be the shops, resturaunt,cofee shop,because at the moment is Twickenham dead and boring.

  6. Tim

    A Twickenham plan which doesn’t attempt to deal properly with traffic is going to be a waste.
    The town centre is going to be most improved for locals, and for people to visit, if they can get around with the excess of traffic and related pollution. Given that these are the items most picked up on in the borough survey, and given that we know from the town’s location, the roads nearby, and a heap of recent studies, that car and truck traffic don’t make for nice or overly prosperous shopping areas, it seems a shame that the plan doesn’t seem to look at this hugely …

  7. SGdB

    The last I heard, Twickeham is in England, so why put distance in metres?

    • Tim

      Because that’s what we teach in school? Because this is the 21st century? Oh, wait, no, because Brussels called this blogger to put him right …

  8. Thanks for the reminder – I’ve sent a link to your blog to all the people who I think might like to comment……

  9. ‘Swotting’ not ‘swatting’ is what is needed!

    It’s 30 years, not 25, since the Twickenham Lido was closed ‘for repairs’.