There’s good news and bad news. The good news? At long last a development plan has been approved for the remaining parts of the old Twickenham swimming pool site. The bad news? It’s not a particularly good one.
This week, to nobody’s surprise, Richmond Council’s planning committee approved Richmond Council’s plan to develop riverside in line with the plan that Richmond Council has been promoting. The move marks a major victory for Richmond Council. Despite planning approval, the Environment Agency’s concerns over the potential flood risk for the under-podium parking for the new flats mean it will be called in for review by the wonks of the National Planning Casework Unit of Big Government. Likelihood of significant change? Slim. A ruling is expected within the next few weeks. Assuming it all chugs along with only minor amendments, might it be said that after decades of inaction that the plan is just about ‘good enough’? Here at Twickerati we take the view that after over two years of consultation about this particular scheme we might expect something rather better.
The plan, which started life three years ago as some kind of bizarre tribute to Twickenham’s non-existent Roman past and ended up as more of a tribute to bland suburban compromise, still has some way to go before it becomes a reality. It will be three or four years before the whole thing is finished and a lot of concrete needs to be poured into a lot of holes between now and then. As for the ideas for a lido and /or a riverside park, both of which received a lot of support for their respective petitions, it looks as if they will now be consigned to the file marked “what might have been”.
We know Twitter polls aren’t the most reliable things but a quick Twickerati poll showed very little public support. A hefty 80% regarded it as a missed opportunity compared to 4% who think it’s a good scheme. Surely El Brute can’t be happy with that?
The development site covers the Santander building at the top of Water Lane, the car park behind it and some of the old buildings on part of the original Twickenham pool site. Most of the site will be built on with the complex containing 39 apartments and space for ground floor retail. It will also include the much discussed ‘town square’ which will be almost the size of two whole tennis courts. Whether you regard that as big enough for markets, community events or perhaps a winter ice rink is up to you and probably depends on how tall you are. The Diamond Jubilee Gardens and the controversial issue of parking on the river frontage remain untouched, with the El Brute preferring to skip the ‘whole site’ solution idea in favour of a more piecemeal approach. Pragmatic is what they might call it. Although El Brute has said it will review parking and traffic flow more widely in central Twickenham, the idea of moving car parking to alternative locations slightly away from the prime river frontage is not going to happen anytime soon. Parkers gotta park, eh? Sure, but there are other options. With the development also closing-off one end of the service road behind the King Street shops the flow of traffic through the area is likely to remain problematic. Some fear it could get worse.
It’s taken a while. In fact, given that the pool closed in 1981 it’s taken nearly 40 years to get to where we are now with assorted failed schemes and ideas along the way. Endless public and private consultations have seen this plan evolve to what it is now. Some locals’ concerns were taken into account in the various iterations, others were not. And some issues pitted local versus local with even some Twickenham households divided over the hot topic of our times (possibly, but probably not). We have action at last! The question you have to ask yourself now is, was it all worth the wait?
- The Planning Application – Case 17/4213/FUL
- Twickenham rediscovered link to design proposals – Council website
- The “Park Not Car Park” petition / Twickenham Riverside Park on Twitter – supporting a riverside park
- Riverside Action Group / RAG on Twitter – residents group originally calling for a restart but now supporting the Council’s modified scheme
- Twickenham Lido – proposing a lido as part of the overall scheme
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