Twickenham station debate gets up steam

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

5 Comments

Filed under Council, Local Issues & News, Station Development

5 responses to “Twickenham station debate gets up steam

  1. twickerman

    Solum’s plans are not just grossly oversized and overbearing, but they also are packed full of environmental issues.

    If you take a look at the ‘officers letter’ on the current station planning page you will see the long list of concerns the council has about this application. None of these are satisfactorily addressed by Solum’s latest submissions.

    For example the ‘Riverside walk’ which is supposed to benefit residents and the environment, has no details other than a photo of some metal railings and some wooden fencing. Great!
    They also claim that the 8 and 9 storey blocks will have a negligable effect on wind and shadow despite facing into the prevailing wind. Who are they trying to kid? Tables and parasols from the proposed cafe bordering London Road will probably be blown right through the station entrance onto the platforms on a windy day.

    I agree with jmtwix – Network Rail need to be persuaded to give us a pleasant, efficient station without the tower blocks.

  2. jmtwix

    Carl, I couldn’t agree more.

  3. Depressed to say this but I actually supported this until relatively recently. I couldn’t care less about TRAG’s views, their NIMBY credentials are established quite well with the ‘Save Our Skyline’ part of the name.

    What does depress me is the removal of the ‘affordable’ housing, although affordable housing in Twickenham is still likely to be well above the level that Joe Average could afford, and that there doesn’t appear to be any interest in incentives to get owner-occupiers into the properties.

    This is a landlord’s wet dream of a development. Piled high flats in a prime location, supported by an astroturfing campaign shortly to commence with a meeting in a local letting and management company, likely with eyes on the prize of letting out and managing some of those overpriced, undersized flats. Of course those wishing to purchase them to actually live in them will find themselves struggling to raise deposits and outbid by landlords, then get the pleasure of subsidising the tax relief on the mortgage interest payments.

    If these are going to be built without any kind of social conscience society should offer the same consideration in return – absolutely none.

    • Let’s all try to remember that this is about STATION redevelopment and not about profit-driven housing development.
      The station is a strategic site and the station development will define the ‘gateway to Twickenham’ for the next 50 years. That’s why a design-led iconic station building is required, and why Solum’s high-rise wall of residential development is so wrong.
      What Twickenham station needs are:
      – lifts to the platforms to improve accessibility for the disabled, parents with pushchairs, and people with luggage
      – replacement of the ugly, cramped, claustrophobic walkways from the station entrance to the platforms
      – a more spacious station entrance with additional ticket machines and turnstiles.
      – removal of clutter from platforms and refurbished toilets
      – less impact on local roads and the town centre on match days
      This is the Plan B that Vince Cable has requested. Despite the RFU’s claims to the contrary Plan B does exist and will be presented shortly.

    • Good news jmtwix. I’m sure between SWT/Network Rail, the RFU and El Brute a solution to the costs of this development can be found, without it being an annoying sideline to making money out of pile high, build cheap, rent high housing.