REVISED: This item is an updated and re-vamped version of the one published on 12th July.

Twickenham riverside site from Embankment
Twickenham riverside site from Embankment

Folks, for months we had been expecting the big reveal, the grand unveiling, or, if you will, the presentation to end all presentations! We are of course talking about the revised plans for the Twickenham Riverside development. Remember that old thing? How could you not? It’s big. Well, after trailing the pop-up shop to review the revised designs, we’re now told we’ll have a wait a while yet as more consultation is required. Apparently.

As you full well know, and do not pretend that you don’t, when El Brute presented their regency inspired ‘design concept’ for the site last year it was met with views that ranged from mild disappointment all the way to downright anger. OK, so there was indifference too and even a small smattering of delight but for the most part the ideas presented fell quite a way short of what most residents were hoping for. Be honest, have you actually met anyone who really liked the design? The much discussed town square seemed to be missing, the opening up of the King Street shops to the river via Water Lane hadn’t happened and the prospect of a regency inspired amphitheatre with up to 40 flats on top didn’t really compute with the brief of making best use of this prime riverside location. The colonnade of shops didn’t go down well either, although the creation of garden space in front of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens was generally popular… except with people who currently park their cars there.  So far, so meh! For others, the fact that the plans were not a new lido also presented a major obstacle.

Extract of design from LBRuT website
Extract of design from LBRuT website

El Brute sought feedback and the result was a resounding ‘no thanks’ from the hundreds who took the time to reply. Of the 754 consultation responses received just 93 said the plans met the needs of the local community. Ouch! A local Riverside Action Group was formed to try to persuade Richmond Council to re-think the whole process but the Council pressed on, telling you lot that it would listen to your views and make amendments to the designs that had been created by its chosen architects, Q&F Terry (esteemed “designers of new classical buildings”) who had won El Brute’s ‘competition’.

Initial design for town square Twickenham (image: LBRuT)
Initial design for town square Twickenham (image: LBRuT)

And so months later, there we all were waiting patiently to see whether residents’ feedback had been taken into account only to be told by El Brute that instead of seeing revised designs we’ve got “opportunities for an ever deeper conversation” instead. This is where the pop-up shop comes in and there is even a series of workshops too. An ‘ever deeper conversation‘? Sounds like something Bill Clinton would do at an EU summit. Does this mean that the draft revisions did not open up a vista to the river, create a town square, reduce or eliminate the amount of housing on the site, reduce the overall scale of the buildings and change the architectural style to something much more in keeping with Twickenham? No comment but there does seem to be a great divide between residents’ expectations for the site and the Council’s aspirations.

The new consultation is centred around creating a ‘New heart for Twickenham‘. In the introduction, leading Brutista, Councillor Pamela Fleming sets the scene and says that rather than present revised designs the consultation will be “reflecting back what we have heard so far and identify themes and topics where there is scope and appetite for a richer and deeper conversation”. A three stage process between now and October will involve first feedback, and then workshops before revised designs are presented in the final phase.  In terms of architecture and the much-unloved regency designs, someone’s been busy out and about around the town photographing windows, doors and columns that might possibly tie in with the proposed retro-theme. And to be fair to them they’ve actually found a few: the windows above Poundland for example, the former post office (now William Webb Ellis pub) and Twickenham Library. Great to know that Poundland is inspiring the future of Twickenham Riverside. Objectors to the idea of flats on the site will be disappointed to learn that LBRuT regards residential development of some kind as essential to making the whole scheme financially viable. In other words, don’t expect big changes.

Interestingly the ‘New heart for Twickenham’ document contains no images of the previous designs. Does this mean it’s all in the past? We sincerely doubt it as the intention is to push on with the current choice of architect. Does it mean that the end of the consultation will find a way to show that the original concept was ‘broadly right’ all along? You might think that, but we couldn’t possibly comment.

 

Water Lane car park - Twickenham riverside
Water Lane car park – Twickenham riverside

The pop up shop will be on Church Street and open at various times between Tuesday 19th and Saturday 30th July. There’s an online survey too. Not enough for you? There are also six workshops from mid-August to mid-September covering different aspects of the plans such as viability, business use, parking and cycling.  Here at twickerati HQ we’re still pondering on the rationale for this compartmentalised approach to ‘workshopping’ the issues. If you want to take part, advance booking is required. Who knows, there may also be other El Brute initiatives to get you to love their re-worked designs or to find ways to ‘better interpret your feedback’ (our phrase not theirs).

Meanwhile, RAG, in addition to producing its ‘residents brief’ setting out what many locals want from the site and protesting outside Council meetings are still trying to get the whole process re-started in a more open and inclusive way. They’ve even gone as far as to claim support from RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.  RAG’s website says RIBA has raised questions about the procurement of the project and the level of taxpayer funds spent “without meaningful consultation with the local community”.

Perhaps on the assumption that EL Brute will try to push ahead with the Romanesque ‘Terry Town’ regardless, RAG have also planned a public meeting at the Clarendon Hall at York House on Saturday 24th September (10.15 – 12.15) where some of the alternative plans for the site will be on display and where locals will get a chance to hear from other stakeholders and discuss options.

Needless to say, don’t take our word on any of this, go along and speak your brains out. The window of opportunity for comments will be shorter than for the original pop-up so you’ll need to plan carefully if you want to have your say. Top tip: don’t go on holiday.

Why does it all have to be so hard, eh? From the way it’s shaping up, this heavyweight gladiatorial contest could run for a while longer yet. So plebs, thumbs up or thumbs down?

 

LINKS:

* LBRuT – Twickenham Rediscovered – Council pages on Twickenham riverside with details of pop-up shop, workshops and other ways to feedback
* LBRuT new consultation document
* Riverside Action Group – Local residents’ group calling for the consultation to be re-started
* Twickenham Lido group