Richmond Council has ducked the thorny issue of parking on Twickenham Riverside after residents gave the ‘wrong’ answer in the recent consultation. Locals’ feedback on the latest iteration of El Brute’s “New Heart for Twickenham” proposals generated mixed views on most of the questions although the architecture and scale are still proving unpopular. The overall response rate wasn’t huge (about 450 respondents to most questions) and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if consultation fatigue played a large part in that. But one issue, car parking, generated a very clear majority of opposition. 66% disagreed with the parking proposals in the document compared to just 22% supporting them. The LBRuT plan involved creating under podium parking for the new flats whilst leaving the strip of prime land at Twickenham Embankment as a car park, despite early intentions to move the traffic away. The Council has now dodged the problem and said it will deal with parking separately.
Here at twickerati we had advocated removing some or all of the cars from the Embankment frontage and finding a more creative solution whilst also taking note of access and parking for Eel Pie Islanders and Water Laners. Interestingly, in their communication to locals during the consultation, the Riverside Action Group who have been campaigning for a more appropriate development based on a proper brief, had recommended agreeing with LBRuT’s ‘just leave it as is’ parking proposals. It seems people were not convinced and so disagreed with both RAG and LBRuT. Having challenged LBRuT on many issues, with some successes, it seems RAG could not convince its own supporters on this point. After the resoundingly negative feedback, El Brute say that a study will be commissioned to look at parking across central Twickenham but they also point out that the Embankment is not within the boundaries of the site for the planning application. Sure, a wider review might all sound jolly good n shit, but it also means that the opportunity to incorporate more creative parking options within the site itself are now likely to be glossed over in the plans. Put simply, having made concessions on some unpopular aspects of the designs, El Brute also reined back on one of their popular ideas too. Bit weird dat.
Balancing what’s best for the development of Twickenham Riverside as a whole and what meets the needs of those living and working in its immediate vicinity is a tough call. It is tricky but that’s why creative ‘whole site’ solutions are needed…. and a proper town square of course. That aspect is still largely missing from the designs.
Meanwhile RAG has issued its own comms to remind people of what it has done in terms of engagement with the Council and helping to reduce the scale and height of the buildings, especially at the river front. RAG has helped to get the designs ‘softened’ and away from the Terrys’ universally disliked early monolithic drawings. RAG has also got the Council to engage with ideas of connectivity, community and Twickenham’s heritage, all of which were sadly lacking from the earliest plans. This is important because as most people have pointed out, Twickenham is not Richmond.
As for the ‘shared space‘ behind the King Street where the access road and business car park is, this is the thing that no-one is entirely sure what it’s for. At its simplest it seems to mean, we need to have a service road to access the back of the shops but it can be tarted up and made nice for pedestrians too. Can’t wait.
So what about the rest of the consultation results? The ‘general comments’ focused on parking, the architecture and the building height. Access, pedestrianisation and the public space were also common themes. And on the absolutely pivotal issue of whether the steps at the end of Water Lane should be concave or convex, well, there were supporters for both ideas but convex won out in the end. Hurrah for convexity! Why was that even a question when other fundamental aspects were given lower billing? And talking of getting into minute detail, one respondent even advocated more filigree on the balconies. Filigree on balconies? Now there’s a topic for a future Council consultation if ever one were needed. In terms of the whole raised section of terrace at the front of the site, El Brute says this is being re-worked but one respondent summed it up succinctly: “It doesn’t matter how you landscape it as there’ll be a car park in the way!” Ouch! A tad excessive perhaps but not far from the mark.
In terms of what we might see next, RAG state that “Thanks to our constructive engagement with all three groups including the Trustees of Diamond Jubilee Gardens, we can also report that the new design footprint provides the publicly expressed wish for open connectivity not just with the riverside but also with the gardens and Water Lane”.
Away from RAG, there is momentum behind the idea that a Twickenham riverside park rather than just a car park would be the best thing between the Diamond Jubilee Gardens and the Thames. The #parknotcarpark brigade has set up a petition to try to get this issue promoted and debated. Their view? Having spent over £6m of taxpayers’ money acquiring the land, it’s not too late to make the best use of this whole site with both a riverside park and a town square in addition to the (commercially necessary) buildings. Blimey, that sounds almost sensible doesn’t it?
Here’s one idea from Twickenham Riverside Park as posted on Twitter.
And here’s their poster…
So what next? Are we seeing the f-rag–mentation of local opposition? Is parking a deal breaker? Will there be a push for unity? A return to the lido idea even? Will the Twickenham People’s Front win local hearts and minds from the People’s Front of Twickenham? And will El Brute just push on regardless? The Council’s next consultation on the revised ‘softened’ (and final) plans is scheduled for October. Whoop whoop! Can you face another one? Course you can. After that, the final final detailed plans will be taken through the planning process… most probably with the controversial issue of cars and traffic well and truly parked.
Happy? Sad? Resigned? Bored of it? All of the above? As ever, only you know the answer to that one.