For the second time in this saga it’s time to say goodbye to one Gloriana boathouse item and hello to a new one. You can still find our previous two items and their 600+ comments on the links below but we felt it was time to take stock of where this almighty rumpus has got to and launch a fresh article.
And with less than a week of consultation time left, we’ve even added a few more RECENT UPDATES below.
It really does appear that if Orleans Gardens is going to play host to Gloriana and her bargehouse then it’s not going to happen quietly. There are a lot of vocal locals out there expressing their disapproval. Some might call them nimbys (and that may be true in part) but it does feel like a very clear majority of the people who know and use the park are opposed to the plan. The question then is whether the views of those who don’t know it or don’t use it should be given priority? Should Twickenham locals have to “take one for the team”? And if so, who’s team is it?
So where are we now?
The drop in sessions at Orleans House Gallery have been and gone with Richmond Council doing a good selling job on Lord True’s grand vision. It certainly was a lucky co-incidence that Gloriana was moored up at Hammerton’s pier over that weekend to woo the undecided. It obviously didn’t work on Twickenham MP Vince Cable who has since declared his opposition to hosting the boat on this particular piece of green space.
What did we learn at the drop in session?
We learned that the park site will not be ‘industrialised’ as part of the development, any significant maintenance work on the boat will be done elsewhere. In fact, the skipper of the Gloriana was at pains to point out to one objector that he needed little more than a chamois leather for his maintenance routine on the boat. We mean him cleaning the boat, not his own personal hygiene routine, of course – the squabbling hasn’t reached that level yet!
We also learned from the LBRuT project manager that this plan was not being kept in the dark until after the election and that it was actually well known and in the Conservative’s manifesto. Really? We’re not convinced.
We also learned that a secure, covered home is a prime consideration although we’re not aware of many other purpose built boathouses for newly launched craft. We’re probably wrong on that score.
And lastly, we enjoyed overhearing an exchange about the scale of the building between the “antis” and the Gloriana’s skipper after which he called over to them something along the lines of, “And where’s the petition to support the Gloriana, eh?” We thought that was an excellent question.
Richmond Council’s Gloriana consultation is due to continue until the end of August.
Meanwhile the boathouse bashers have been battling away on all fronts. In response to requests (both at Council meetings and under the Freedom of Information Act) we are now enlightened on the following points:
The boathouse could be in the region of 36 metres long, 12 metres wide and 7 metres high. It might even be higher. It is not a small building. Add the ‘canal’ into the equation and it’s a big construction project.
The 2013 feasibility study which led to Orleans Gardens being selected as the preferred site of the Gloriana boathouse looked at just three, pre-selected sites. Two along the river at Richmond and the Orleans Gardens site (although that started off as a more generic ‘Marble Hill / Orleans Gardens’ so maybe that’s four?).
An FOI request reveals emails showing that the idea for housing it in the Twickenham area dates back as far as April 2012. On 1st May, Lord True, the Blue Baron gives Marble Hill a mention in the context of it being “all forlorn”. He then refers to the boathouse idea as “a Crystal Palace for a fairy craft”. Eh? We can’t resist a little diversionary anecdote at this point… When discussing the plan at a twickerati editorial dinner, this “crystal palace for a fairy craft” phrase was mentioned. One of the very junior members of staff, who’d only been half listening, made his solitary contribution to the debate with a simple: “What a lame ass!” That seems a little harsh – no Pulitzer Prizes here – and it’s not necessarily a view we’d seek to promote, but it did entertain the rest of the team. Despite that, it’s clear from the correspondence that Lord True is passionate about the Gloriana plan and the whole heritage connection which might assuage some people’s fears of the boathouse being a foot in the door for wider development of the site.
Anyway, given that discussions between Lord True, Lord Sterling and others have been running for over two years and that assorted council officials have been involved in the plans, we still find it a very strange state of affairs that Twickenham’s councillors appear not to have known about it until after the election. Would it have made a difference? Perhaps not, but then again there are some fairly slender majorities in local wards. Should they have known about it? Surely that is the more interesting question. Two years of discussions and planning about a proposal to house a boat owned by a Trust on public parkland? We think that’s something that local councillors ought to have known about and ought to want to know about. As we said in our first article on this saga, we can’t help but wonder if anyone else’s plans to build on the site would have met with the same level of enthusiasm but we suppose that throwing some council money into the pot is a bit of a game changer on that front.
The feasibility study includes outlining some of the risks associated with the proposal. We can’t see local opposition to the idea among them although there are lots of positive assertions about attracting visitors and the like.
Lord True has said he has no plans to change anything until the consultation is over. As to why there is no Yes/No option on the consultation, the EL Brute Q&A fact sheet says that it’s not necessary because there are plenty of ways to express views as part of the process.
So, we’re still scratching our heads over the many mysteries around the proposal – the way it came about, the focus on just three sites all on prime Council owned land, the expectation that local taxpayers contribute £1m to a private-yet-charitable project, the giving up of a well-loved, undeveloped, protected section of park for a substantial construction. Are we looking at a case of “group think” here? Having said that, we do like Gloriana – she’s a fine looking boat – and we’d be happy to see the Trust that owns her find and pay for a suitable home for their boat in the local area, possibly even with some kind of encouragement from the Council. There are many moorings and possible locations to choose from along the Thames. Perhaps they should conduct a feasibility study to find the best site?
By way of conclusion, we’ll leave you mulling over that “crystal” analogy and, as you do so, ask you to think of yet another lord, Lord Jim of Morrison, and The Doors’ 1967 classic, The Crystal Ship.
“The Crystal Ship is being filled; A thousand girls, a thousand thrills; A million ways to spend your time; When we get back, I’ll drop a line”.
SOME BRIEF UPDATES (18th & 26th August)
With just a few days to go until the consultation closes we thought we’d have a quick update on developments…
* As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Vince Cable has come out against the proposals in their current form. He’s not at all convinced that Orleans Gardens is the right home for old Gloriana and he’s deigned to get involved in the issue to say so. We have to say that he seemed to get a bit confused on some aspects by referring to the boat as old… someone had better tell him that 2 is not actually that old.
* The Richmond & Twickenham Times reported the following: “Councillor Pamela Fleming, council cabinet member for environment, said the majority of people in Twickenham “would love to see the Gloriana”. She said: “It is a minority of people voicing their opposition to the proposals, we respect their views and do want to work with them””. Fair play to Cllr Fleming for doing her own research and surveys. Here at twickerati we’d love to see the results of that survey and a bit of detail into what prompted her to make that quote. Or was it perhaps wishful thinking? The only surveys or polls we’ve seen are the one on this site and the one of the RTT site, both of which showed a clear majority against the plans. We’ll let you know asap when Cllr Fleming shares her research. Did we say ‘when’? We meant ‘if’. The same article refers to a referendum idea but we can’t see that happening.
* A quick look at our poll shows that with over 1,600 votes cast, 75% say no to the big boathouse plan for Orleans Gardens with just 13% in favour.
* Meanwhile a site as Platts Eyott, Hampton has been discussed (see comments below on where this came from and why it might not be a likely contender) and there’s also an Eel Pie Island option for consideration… or rather the owner of the Phoenix Wharf boathouse on the island has said he’s willing to discuss options. And after all, why wouldn’t he be? We have to say that Eel Pie Island sounds like a decent shout.
* Lobbying for Brentford continues apace with Hounslow Council, Brentford Chamber of Commerce and the Brentford & Isleworth MP Mary McLeod all getting behind their campaign.
* We also heard a rumour that one of the drivers of the whole plan is an attempt to turn Richmond into a Royal Borough. Woo! Just think of the kudos. Would you like that, eh? Wouldn’t you just love to be able to stick ‘Royal Borough’ on your address? Tell you what, perhaps residents could add it to their email addresses and twitter names too. Now that would really be a mighty fine thing. Wouldn’t it??
* The ‘no’ campaign has further developed its web presence with its Save Orleans Riverside website (previously Friends of Orleans Riverside). And they’ve even published a guide on how to fill in the Council’s consultation which, let’s be honest, is loaded in such a way as to help drive a ‘yes please’ outcome. We assume they’re just trying to redress the balance a bit. And now they’ve even produced a video about it all which you can see on YouTube or on their Facebook page.
* And finally, if you haven’t had your say in the El Brute Consultation yet, then you should get on with it. You’ve got less than a week left in which to do it. Chop chop!
* The LBRuT Gloriana Consultation Page (closing date: 31 August 2014)
* The Orleans Gardens Blog – a blog supporting the campaign not to develop the park
* Save Orleans Riverside website (was Friends of Orleans Riverside)
Previously on twickerati (all now closed to new comments)