The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death seems like an apposite time for an update on the Twickenham Riverside development. Why? Well, we’ve got comedy, tragedy, a cast of memorable characters, history repeating itself and bitter power struggles. Add to that the option for referencing this saga to the titles of Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. The Comedy of Errors or As True Likes It, etc, etc, add your own versions at the end) and then top it off with the possibility that we might get an amphitheatre on which we’ll be able to see it all acted out one day. Bostin’ as they say in the Midlands although whether they say it as far south as Stratford-upon-Avon is a mystery (to us).
You’ll recall that after having listened to local residents across several consultations over several years, the Council went away, did some mulling and cogitating, worked with big name architects Q&F Terry and then unveiled designs for the riverside which nobody particularly seemed to like. Oh dear. LBRuT (pron: El Brute) then announced that it would work on revisions which would take account of residents’ feedback and, possibly, just possibly, make the scheme do the things that it was originally supposed to do, namely create a useful town square and open up central Twickenham to the river.
Not convinced that this would produce the desired result, the Riverside Action Group was created to try to get the whole consultation re-started in a way that would consider all proposals for the site in a more open way and end up with a plan which better reflected the wishes of locals. After a couple of public meetings designed to capture feedback from residents and traders, RAG has now produced a Residents’ Brief going by the title of ‘The Voice of Twickenham’. Grand indeed. The draft summarises the views of those who engaged with the process. If you were one of them, great. If you weren’t, c’mon, now’s your chance! It’s open for feedback until 7th May and after that the intention is that a final version will inform a future ‘Competition Brief’ for the site. In other words, RAG hopes this will provide a framework for evaluating various proposals and not just LBRuT’s preferred option.
What’s in it then? Its four ‘guiding principles’ are that there should be a town square at the heart of the plan which links King Street to the river, that the whole site from Water Lane to Wharf Lane should be considered in its entirety (in other words, chuck the Diamond Jubilee Gardens into the mix – a sensible idea, eh?), prioritise recreational space bordered by buildings as opposed to having a buildings-led design, and include space for public enjoyment. There’s a lot in there about open space and drawing on Twickenham’s riverside heritage, especially with regard to Eel Pie Island opposite. And there’s stuff in there too about hot topics such as parking and, of course, flats (‘preferably not’, you’ll be unsurprised to read). It also contains points about trying to make the site attractive to residents from across the borough so that it’s not just a ‘Twickenham thing’. Tell you what, why not read it for yourself, it’s not a bloody crime.
All good stuff you might think but will El Brute listen, especially as they’re busy working on their own revisions to the Terry plan for publication and further consultation in the summer. It will depend on many things including whether Twickenham can get behind some key principles and push them forward with positivity. Residents have already said ‘don’t like that’ to the Council’s grand vision, but can they galvanise a critical mass of support to say, ‘hey, but we do want this’?
So, press on with a revised Terry plan or start again with a brief led by local views? It’s your town, you decide!