And so there we have it. Solum Regeneration’s plans for Twickenham station will go ahead after all. Well, we say ‘after all’ but there’s no sense of surprise here at twickerati HQ in the light of today’s Court announcement chucking out TRAG’s appeal against the scheme’s approval. None.
When El Brute (that’s ‘LBRuT’ to the uninitiated) approved the plans in December 2011 amid rowdy scenes at York House, that moment marked the end of any serious opportunity to get the development changed. Local Twickenham agitators, TRAG, have battled hard to get the Council’s decision reversed, first through a judicial review and then by taking their case to the Court of Appeal but today’s ruling surely marks the end of the line for opposition to the scheme. Or rather, it marks the end of the line for any credible means of getting the development changed.
Lord True is delighted. Can you picture his smiling face? In the Richmond Council Press Release the Blue Baron, the Duke of York [House], the Dear Leader says: “I welcome the Court’s decision today and I hope that we can finally lay this matter to rest and move forward with creating a train station that is fit for purpose”. In fact we agree with most of that. Despite all the shenanigans and the flaws in the Solum plan, it is time to move on.
However, one point that does sting (and which TRAG play up in their response to the decision and which the Council play down) is the way a report by the Twickenham Advisory Panel (TAP) was handled. You will recall that the newly created Panel were asked to write a report on the Solum Regeneration scheme. This report, generally considered to be critical of aspects of the scheme, was then not included as part of the Richmond Planning Committee’s considerations. TRAG summarise Lord Justice Richards’ comments as follows: “It will be apparent that I am deeply unimpressed by the way the Council handled the TAP report… I am very surprised that the Council officers advised members of the planning committee to leave the TAP report out of consideration…. The way the report was handled was highly unsatisfactory”. Ouch! ‘Ave some of that!
But the Court also took the view that there was no evidence that the Planning Committee would have reached a different conclusion even if it had taken the TAP report into consideration. Apparently the issues it raised were covered in other papers submitted to the Committee. No doubt different people will infer different things from that but perhaps one lesson to learn from it is not to form a new panel and commission a special report on an important issue if you’re not going to fully include it as a serious part of the process. We’re just lucky that doesn’t happen elsewhere in the world of politics. Oh, hang on, wait a minute…
Anyway, perhaps now we’re clear on the plans going ahead, Solum can break their silence and actually tell us a little bit more about the extent of the closures and disruption during the build.