If you read the local paper or do the ol’ social media thing then you’ll be well aware of the current shenanigans around the idea for a new Twickenham Lido. Given that some of you lovely folk have already mentioned it on our recent High Street Update we thought we’d add a brief new item for you to talk all about it. And not only did we think about adding a post about it, we’ve bloody well gone ahead and done it. Here.

In brief:
El Brute recently(ish) bought the Water Lane site which runs from Santander and M&Co down to the river. The plan? To develop it into some kind of town square complete with mixed use development to make the whole thing viable. Think words like plaza and piazza. Many people – including the team here at twickerati – thought this was broadly a good idea. Some didn’t. Will it work? Who knows? Details are still scant at this stage. It goes without saying that the devil will be in the detail… although we have actually just said it anyway.

El Brute then announced it was running some kind of competition to find the best design for the site. As far as we could tell this turned out to be more along the lines of a standard procurement exercise than what Joe Public might interpret as a ‘competition’.  But we could be wrong and often are. The Council have announced that architects Quinlan and Francis Terry will be the ones to do the business for Twickenham. They’re the people who revamped Richmond Riverside and who specialise in classical designs which suggests we can rule out anything modern. El Brute plan to share the ideas with the public at some point so perhaps that’s where we’ll get to see the rosettes, certificates and cups.

Meanwhile, local outfit Twickenham Alive had done a lot of work putting together a plan for the site which would include a new Lido for Twickenham. As we’re not privy to the workings of the Council we cannot say why the Twickenham Alive bid didn’t make the shortlist but it didn’t.  One might expect an organisation that’s closely linked to the local community to get a look in.

After getting knocked back by LBRuT, Twickenham Alive are now lobbying hard for their proposal to be taken seriously. We’re talking articles and letters in the press and a petition.

And what of their plan? It draws its influences from Twickenham’s history of having an outside pool, the famous Twickenham Baths, and also from the Bristol Lido. A lido sounds interesting – think sunny days relaxing by the pool – but could it work here and what kind of business model would it use? We’ve been never been to Bristol Lido and probably never will but, from its website, it looks like a private health spa, pool and restaurant complex with a strong focus on membership schemes. Guest passes for a swim retail at £20. That’s a lot more pricey than Hampton Pool which,  thanks to its large size, gets year round use from fitness freaks, triathletes and other weirdos. Of course we’re not saying that the lido scheme couldn’t work in Twickenham but it will need to ensure it’s a genuine public amenity rather than a semi-private ‘Amida’ (OK so it’s actually David Lloyd now but that didn’t work as well in terms of alliteration).  We’d also want to know that it would work in November and February and not just June, July and August. The devil is in the detail. Again.

So, should El Brute continue with its ‘competition’ to find a way to improve Twickenham river frontage through the medium of a publicly accessible mixed use development (something a bit like Richmond Riverside) or should it return to the drawing board and look at the idea of bringing a pool back to the town over 30 years since the last one closed? Either way, we could be heading into choppy waters as we decide which plan will sink and which will swim.  Other analogies are available but we’ll leave them for you to add in the comments section. Dive right in.

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LINKS:
Twickenham Lido ( & petition)
* LBRuT Twickenham Town Square
* LBRuT press release re Quinlan Terry