Just over a month ago LBRuT published the results of its consultation on the design plans for Twickenham riverside and the elusive town square. Despite the positive spin put on the report it was clear that feedback on the concept was – and how shall we put this delicately – strongly negative. Actually that’s not fair. If you discard the absence of any real ‘town square’, a dislike of the regency styling which has little in common with its immediate surroundings, the failure to open up the town to the river via Water Lane, the scale of the development and the inclusion of up to 40 flats, the plan went down pretty well. Some aspects did receive a positive response, especially the parts focused on developing public gardens next to the river and reducing the dominance of cars and car parking on that part of the site. For others, the fact that it was not a plan for a new lido was also a major disappointment. Jump back to the present and we now have a new action group, a public meeting and the appearance of TWIKKID, Twickenham’s very own online satirical cartoonist.
As we pointed out, of the 754 responses received just 93 comments said the plans met the needs of the local community. That’s a meagre 12%. Sure, it’s important to bear in mind that it’s easier and more natural to oppose development than to support it but that’s still a very low figure given that almost all of Twickenham is in favour of developing the site in some way.
Far from being soothed by the Council’s words that views expressed would be given consideration as part of revisions to the plan, anger seems to have been mounting. Part of the focus of this has come from those concerned that the Council’s ‘design competition’ ended up with ideas for the site which, in the eyes of many locals, don’t meet the brief of what’s needed there. Why, these people ask, can’t the Twickenham public see the other designs that were submitted especially as they were paid for from real life public money. And where, these self-same people ask, was the section of the brief that said the site should have up to 40 flats making the whole scheme feel more like a property development than a new piece of community space. However, funding large projects is tricky ‘in these difficult times’ and the Council has said that the commercial elements will pay for the public amenities – flats and shops to pay for gardens and paving as it were.
As debate has rumbled on so El Brute (LBRuT) has issued a press release to remind people that ‘we are listening’ and that they will issue revised designs as part of a second consultation in July. Things that they are listening to include the provision of more parking, a reduction in the height of the buildings, creating a better, single open space and opening up Water Lane to the river. Given that list, it’s unclear how closely the Council regard the original ideas as actually having met the brief in the first place but they’re right to address them. Opponents fear this is just a passing nod to locals’ concerns while the Council’s fundamental plan carries on regardless.
El Brute has also improved its ‘Twickenham Rediscovered‘ web pages to provide more details on timelines and provide answers to frequently asked questions, including things like ‘Where actually is the town square in all of this?” and “How come Quinlan & Francis Terry got this gig?”. (Answers to these two being: “That little bit at the top of Water Lane” and “Because we feel they best met the brief”).
Opposition has now crystallised into the newly formed Riverside Action Group. The RAG is calling for El Brute to give local residents a genuine say in the future of the site. A petition has been set up calling on the Council to “Reopen the consultation to include the designs paid for by Borough Council tax payers yet rejected by the Council, along with other proposals such as a riverside park, a town square and the lido”.
If that’s not militant enough for you, a public meeting has been arranged for Thursday 17th March at the Cabbage Patch in Twickenham.
But while the regency / romanesque designs put forward by ‘retrotects’ Q & F Terry might not be inspiring to many of you, it has triggered its own bout of creativity Twick-side. Here at twickerati HQ we received this artist’s impression of the site from TWIKKID who could be set to become our very own Banksy. We’re not quite sure if it’s possible to have online street art but we’re going to run with the idea for the time being. The name of the piece? True’s Folly. Ouch!
And if the plans and that statue do get the go ahead for Twickenham Riverside we can only assume that those residents who feel let down by the Council’s scheme will be left muttering, “Et True, Brute?”