It’s like deja vu all over again isn’t it? And it feels like we’ve even said that before. El Brute has published the results of its October consultation on the Twickenham Riverside development. Guess what? Locals are still agitated about many aspects of the scheme – especially car parking directly in front of the river on the Embankment – but the Council’s response has been to tinker with a few bits and bobs but leave the fundamentals, and the cars, as they were.
Nearly 1,000 people responded to the questionnaire (more than in the previous consultations) despite October’s being focused on carefully selected topics including small details such as the proposed flag poles / masts down Water Lane and the idea of a water feature (popular… but now scrapped because of expected maintenance costs). Some aspects received a positive response such as the proposed town square at the end of Water Lane and better integration with the Diamond Jubilee Gardens although the two will still be kept separate by a big building. However, the overall site plan still failed to score well and the scale and style of the buildings was still a concern for some. Small adjustments include lowering building heights by up to 65cm and the enlargement of the ‘seasonal units’ under the podium by altering the design of the private underground car park for the new flats.
Aside from the carefully corralled questions on flag poles, water features and bridge links, it was only in the ‘other comments’ section that respondents were given free rein to have their say. And in that section 46% of respondents wanted to move cars off the front of the Embankment. This was by far the biggest theme. Funnily (or maybe not) it is also consistent with the Conservative council’s own proposals when in opposition prior to 2010 and in their early ideas after taking control of the Council. It even featured in the early Terry designs for the site put forward a couple of years ago. Since that time the Embankment has morphed from an area where it might be possible to build a riverside park fully integrated with the whole site into a road that LBRuT regard as so essential to the traffic flow around Twickenham town centre that alternative solutions are just too difficult to conceive at this time. What changed? We don’t know. Financial feasibility? Lobbying from locals who like the status quo juusssst fine? An unwillingness to think creatively about options for a whole site solution? You decide. Either way, El Brute’s refusal to address the site in its entirety is a missed opportunity, and more importantly, one that the Councillor Fleming & friends seem absolutely determined to keep missing.
A slight case of bottling the issue perhaps? The precise billy bottler quote says: “Any wider revision to parking in the area needs to be part of a wider holistic plan that looks to improve the balance of provision between all users in the area… this needs to be addressed separately to the planning application. Changes can come at a later date”. You might now be thinking to yourself that there have already been numerous consultations, surveys and reports on what’s best for the riverside. Some of you might then think that there has been ample opportunity to address the fundamental questions of parking, traffic, service roads and access. If only the councillors, planners and architects had been able to tear themselves away from what should go on top of those flag poles, eh? As it is, they’ve run up an idea up there but there aren’t many locals saluting it.
We now have a plan that ticks important boxes including the crucial one of actually doing something after decades of inaction (pretty important that!) but from starting with such unsuitable designs over two years ago, far too much of the consultation process has been spent bringing the concept into the realms of normality when it should have been spent creating something truly great for Twickenham.
El Brute says the newly tinkered proposals will form a planning application in the next few weeks with a decision due in March 2018. So, should they just press on and get it done, or should they re-visit the fundamentals with a more creative and open mind? Speak! (politely please)
UPDATE: Planning application has been created already, but is not yet validated. Quick work eh?
- Twickenham rediscovered link to design proposals – Council website
- Planning application – Council website
- The “Park Not Car Park” petition / Twickenham Riverside Park on Twitter – supporting a riverside park and whole site solution
- Riverside Action Group / RAG on Twitter – campaigning for a better solution
- Twickenham Lido – proposing a lido as part of the overall scheme