Boom! It’s war! It’s long been a dream of ours to begin an article with that word de nos jours. And now that we’ve done it, what’s left? Nothing of course, all our ambitions have been fulfilled. But why the ‘boom!’ in the first place? Well, the next bitter battle in the development of Twickenham is expected to be fought over the weeks and months ahead. This time it’s the regeneration of the old Royal Mail sorting office site that is going to get people all agitated and hot under the collar. Except that it probably won’t. Why? Because the development looks like a good scheme.
The draft plans have been online for months and given an airing at a couple of community meetings, but it’s only now that the detailed application has been validated by El Brute that you get to take a look at the full monty on their website.
The scheme is being proposed by the developer St James and architects, JTP. And it’s at this point that we should stress that JTP are actually not, repeat not, architects, they are in fact “international place makers”. Just like you, we have no idea whatsoever who or what an “international placemaker” is, so we’ll stick with the words architects and designers for the time being.
And what will these fine fellows be offering the people of Twickenham? Well, it’s large site and so it’s a bit of a mix. Squeezed in between the railway and the River Crane, the development will include a “cultural hub” community building with flexible space, a mixed use section with 82 apartments and space for 2 restaurants, basement level parking, a small piazza next to the Crane and a ‘housing quarter’. This latter section, set furthest back from London Road, will contain 28 houses complete with actual, real parking spaces (unlike the flats at the station development across the road) and actual, real, small gardens behind.
Architecturally it’s a bit of a mix too: modern, modern with a nod to the 30s and houses with a bit of a Georgian (or is it mid-Victorian?) theme. Either way it hangs together pretty well, is fairly low rise and puts a lot onto the site. Could or should the architecture have been a bit bolder, a bit more modern? Quite possibly. Any drawbacks? No doubt there will be a few discussion points and the use of the word “gatehouse” is a slight worry with its connotations of electric gates and new houses being “in the community” but not “part of the community”. Some will also express concern about the affordability of the housing, or rather, the very limited amount of affordable housing contained in the scheme. But all in all, and at the risk of undermining any nimby credentials that the twickerati website may have accrued over the last couple of years, the verdict from the van is that this is a good development which will provide a long overdue injection of life into this expanse of derelict space.
You disagree? Go on then…
A planning decision is due by 29th March.
* Richmond Council planning page (ref 12/3650)
* St James (developer)
* John Thompson & Partners (international placemaker)