To paraphrase former plucky-Brit-cum-war-boss Winston Churchill, we cannot forecast the actions of Richmond Council when it comes to Twickenham Riverside. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. Wise words Winston! But what is that key? Is the key to understanding it the Council’s desire to just get something built and move on so that they can say, “At least we did something?”. Is it about building a fancy-dan lasting legacy to something or other? Or is it to provide ‘new heart for Twickenham’ as their most recent consultation push suggested? Dunno.

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

But what we do know is that the original regency themed design concept complete with colonnade and amphitheatre proved unpopular with a significant majority. Yes, there will always be naysayers, nimbys, blockers and haters but the lack of public support for a redevelopment that is desperately needed was quite telling. Telling too was the Council’s second big consultation on the subject which took place over the summer and which barely mentioned the original scheme despite a clear intention to stick with the same principles and the same architects.

Public meeting about Twickenham Riverside
Public meeting about Twickenham Riverside

This latest Council consultation has now closed but opponents of the scheme in the form of the Riverside Action Group are pressing on with their campaign to ensure that the plans for this prime site reflect the views of the people in the town. Having already showcased some alternative designs, RAG are now hosting a public meeting on Saturday 24th September to give people an opportunity to assess the designs, evaluate the information provided by the Council and discuss the whole bally site. They’re even organising their own referendum on the matter administered by the Electoral Reform society. LBRuT have said they’re listening but are they listening hard enough?

Riverside Action Group flyer
Riverside Action Group flyer

To be fair, El Brute are in a difficult position. Everyone agrees the site needs improving. Everyone likes the idea of making better use of Twickenham’s river frontage. But how to do it? It’s at this point where we look for inspiration to hip hop legends Run DMC and say… “It’s Tricky”. Yes, it is tricky but there does seem to be a clear consensus that the Council has misjudged what Twickenham needs and wants. Here at twickerati HQ we can’t see what’s wrong with a contemporary scheme which takes a nod towards Twickenham’s riverside heritage and which focuses on public space next to the river and opens up Water Lane to connect Embankment to King Street. Job done.

So, with RAG continuing to campaign hard for re-starting the whole process as the Council tries to press on with re-vamping its own scheme, like the old River Thames itself, this one could run for a while yet.

Twickenham riverside site from Embankment
Twickenham riverside site from Embankment

LINKS & INFO:

* RAG public meeting: 10.15am, Saturday 24th September, Clarendon Hall, York House.(Doors 9,45)
* Riverside Action Group
* Richmond Council – Twickenham Rediscovered
* Richmond Council’s original proposals