Platforms at Twickenham station

It’s been weeks if not months since we covered the saga of the redevelopment of Twickenham station on here. In short, we’ve let you have your summer without irritating you with endless station shenanigans. Well, time’s up. Summer’s over and the autumn campaigning season is underway. All the players are still there so let’s ave a quick recap on who’s who:
* Solum – evil developer, lovechild of poor ol’ Network Rail and the not much known Kier Properties. Or, depending on your point of view, the saviour of Twickenham.
* El Brute – Richmond’s Tory council which seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place by wanting regeneration but not, it seems, with one of the few offers on the table. A council with more consultations going on than your local GP.
* Lord True – Council leader, champion of the redevelopment of Twickenham and all round Duke of York House. Not the same bloke as Ralph from The Fast Show.
* TRAG – Twickenham Residents Action Group which, depending on your point of view, comprises NIMBYs blocking any kind of progress or a group of committed locals wanting sensible controlled development of their town.
* RFU – Governing body of those with oval balls. Currently getting nervous about the prospect of fans arriving in Twickenham for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and being confronted by a giant building site.
* St Vincent de Cabal – the white knight of this tale, perhaps. Could he be the man to knock heads together to get things moving?
* Stephen Knight – another Lib Dem. The yellow knight? Leader of the oppostion at York House and the man who has called for all new flats at the station to be affordable housing. And, err, probably some other things too.

So, where are we then?

Well, you will recall that the last time around, Solum had revised their plans for the development. They took one storey from the height (making it 9 rather than 10 storeys high, once the podium height is taken into account) and decided to replace their original plans along the River Crane with a mock Georgian terrace. As we said at the time, not many people knew that the Georgian era was the golden age of steam in Twickenham. We’ve certainly learned something new from all this. So what next for Twickenham? A Tudor themed hi-tech business park? Perhaps a Saxon style bowling alley on Church Street?

Anywayyyyy, Solum revised their plans, handed out leaflets at Twickenham station and took part in a great debate at Richmond College hosted by the mysterious and elusive Twickenham Panel. One of the outcomes was a view that someone, somewhere needed to try to move things forward in a sensible way. St Vince went on the record calling for a Plan B but as we know from the Con-Dem alliance in Westminster, there is no Plan B. One of the ideas being touted is to get the RFU to cough up some cash. A station which caters for tens of thousands of rugby fans and moves crowds around quickly and safely is very important to them. It’s part of the Twickenham rugby experience and the RFU ought to be integral to the development. Stumping up some cash might buy them some more direct input as well as goodwill. But on the other hand, why bother if the developer has already got big money plans on the table and a solution that is just about adequate? Or at least, better wait and see how things go with Solum first.

Meanwhile Solum’s plans trundle through the planning process as time slips by. Solum have revised their ideas a couple of times already with some concessions on height and scale. But their plans still seem confused and do not fully deal with the fundamentals of what Twickenham station should be about. They’ve proposed mixing Georgian with modern (what’s wrong with 100% good, modern design?), tabled fewer flats (good) but at the expense of social housing (not good), and will still build to almost the same height as Regal House and its new bolt on Travelodge. There’s no office space, something that might be a sensible option at a transport interchange. But if we’re going to just get flats then including some form of affordable housing is surely better than unaffordable housing – Twickenham has plenty of that already!

Solum's station plans (TRAG image)
Needless to say there’s still no parking for the proposed 115 apartments which will mean 115 German motor cars in neighbouring streets. And by building right up to the road, future changes to transport arrangements get restricted and Twickenham’s “northern gateway” has an overbearing look to it. This part should be set back from the road to futureproof the area. We’ll need that extra space when we cycle everywhere on new elevated cycle tracks and add lanes for our eco-friendly jumbo buses powered by the aroma of aduki beans. OK, so perhaps the beans thing will never happen but there needs to be scope for dealing with the buses, trams, cars and bikes of the future. That flexibility should be in place from the start. Check out Solum’s Block A on what TRAG call “The Great Wall of Twickenham” to see that there’s no scope for any of this in London Road.

The current plans are now up for consultation on El Brute’s planning pages. There are plenty of objections and, let’s be fair, plenty of letters of support too. Much of the support is general in nature, being in favour of an improved station. Dudes, that’s a given! Just about everyone wants the station developed, the question is how. And don’t forget that Solum got their way in Epsom and Walthamstow despite local opposition and are likely to end up developing here too, so there’s nowt wrong with trying to get the best long-term deal for Twickenham out of the whole thing.

So, even if you commented on the previous station plans and/or the podium proposal you still need to add new comments on the current plans if they are to be taken into account by El Brute’s planning tsar.

Some concessions have been made by Solum but further changes are needed. And while we’re at it, so is a more collaborative approach between Solum, the Council, the RFU and, most importantly, the town. That way we can have something that is fit for Twickenham for decades ahead.

LINKS & INFO:
* The Richmond Council planning reference number is: 11/1443
* Current station planning page
* TRAG SOS News page with details on their campaign
* “Great Wall of Twickenham” images
* Solum Regeneration