Wow! What just happened there? One minute we were expecting an update on the ‘classical inspired’ plans for the Twickenham Riverside site, the next minute we’ve got a classic muddle. Harsh? Maybe a teeny tiny bit (not really) but we now seem to have a compromise where surely no one can be happy.

Town Square goes here (sort of)

We doubt architect Francis Terry can be pleased with having to ditch his love of classical designs for a more utilitarian suburban approach. We doubt most Twickenham residents will be happy with the updated plans –  two big blocks remain and the prime river frontage retained as a car park – and we doubt LBRuT can be overjoyed about having yet another iteration of their scheme unenthusiastically received. And as for the Riverside Action Group who began by campaigning for a fresh start to the project based on a new brief, the result is far from what they set out to achieve and their support for continued parking by the river front has lost them the confidence of many residents.  Perhaps that’s all in the nature of compromises but, in terms of the Council and the other parties putting this scheme together, it really does feel like the bland leading the bland.

You can take a look for yourselves at the ‘almost final’ plans online and have your say too. There are also drop in sessions at the Clarendon Hall at York House. The deadline for comments is 30th October.

View from river (copyright LBRuT)

So what have we got? There’s still one very large block stretching from King Street down Water Lane and across towards the back of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens, and the second block sitting in front of it, separating the existing Diamond Jubilee Gardens from the raised space that’s going to be a small ‘town square’. LBRuT says this square will be the size of two tennis courts. Could it accommodate the Farmers’ or French Markets? Breathe in everyone. It’ll be a squeeze. At least the Great Debate over convex or concave steps has been resolved.

The original classical and subsequent Poundbury stylings have gone and been replaced with something more neutral. It does contain a nod to the idea of riverside warehouses and the like, but at the King Street end it all gets more modern. No bad thing but one might go as far as to call it boring and suburban. Imagine the Santander building that will be knocked down replaced by, well, a more up to date version of the same thing. As well as Francis Terry the design images also credit Carey Jones Chapman Tolcher, architects with a more urban approach than Terry. It would be interesting to see what they would have come up with from the off. Compare and contrast and all that, innit.

Plan view

The blocks will have ground floor business use, including cafes and retail, with flats on the top two levels. They will be taller than the adjacent buildings on Water Lane itself although the pedestrian area there has been widened to try to increase public space. Parking for the new flats will be underneath with access to their own private car park being from the Embankment via a fake boathouse door. Err, doesn’t that sound like more traffic down Water Lane not less.

 

Water Lane elevation

 

Meanwhile the Diamond Jubilee Gardens which should of course have been part of the overall planning vision remain out of scope.  The location of the blocks keeps the DJG separate from the more open aspects of the new site. Does this help to break up the large plot? Possibly. Or will it leave the Gardens on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’?

 

 

Diamond Jubilee Gardens – isolated?

With the exception of a few tweaks for access and deliveries parking is left as is.  Residents’ parking along the Embankment between the site and the river is stubbornly retained meaning the scheme of buildings and terracing is cut off from the river rather than forming a continuous site stepping down to it. The opportunity to create a ‘whole site’ solution (complete with riverside park and / or lido) or even just move the cars to the back of the site has again been ducked.  Was it really too difficult? Really? Or did it just suit the El Brute and some vocal locals to keep parking where it is? Council surveys, consultations, drop-in sessions, online polls and a petition from ‘Twickenham Riverside Park’ have all shown that there is a clear consensus for a better solution to parking than we currently have. It was even part of the current administration’s proposals for the site when they were in opposition.  We’ve got a rare case of a Council actually going back on proposals that had popular support. What a shame.

No change to parking

El Brute’s latest publication does recognise the challenges around traffic and parking. It says, “There have been mixed views about parking outside of the site on the Embankment. Whilst some feedback has expressed a desire to see parking removed, others want to retain existing parking provision”. That is true except for the omission of the words ‘large majority’ and ‘minority’ before those opposing viewpoints.  And one might add that even those favouring parking being removed are only actually pushing for it to be moved back or underground and not eliminated. Parkers gotta park, eh?  LBRuT say  it will look at parking as part of a wider review but it won’t be part of the planning process so we have to assume that the opportunity has now been officially wasted.

The plans for the buildings bear almost no resemblance to the very first design ideas. That’s a very good thing but we do wonder how things might have turned out had the current version been the starting point for discussion and improvements rather than an end point.

You can view the designs yourself online or at a drop in exhibition in the Clarendon Hall, York House on these dates:

  • Monday 9 October from 6.00 to 8.30pm
  • Thursday 12 October from 6.00 to 8.30pm
  • Saturday 14 October from 11.00am to 4.00pm
  • Monday 16 October from 6.00 to 8.30pm
  • Thursday 26 October from 6.00 to 8.30pm

Feedback from this latest consultation will be considered (or ignored) in the final design for the site and a planning application will be submitted before Christmas. Have your say to LBRuT but have it here too.

 

LINKS: