The recent years of no or very low increases to Council Tax are over. Residents in the Borough are now seeing bills land on their doormats for increases of around 3.5% as Council budgets come under pressure from cuts to the funding received from central government. With bills frozen from 2009 to 2015 and with a modest increase last year, the new charges mark a big change. Our Dear Leaders at El Brute have said that cuts in these government grants mean that savings of £31m need to be found to cover the shortfall in order to maintain vital services but increasing Council Tax forms part of the plan too. For a Band D property the hike will average out at 3.55%, comprising 3.99% for Richmond’s own council tax and 1.46% towards the Greater London Authority.
A Council Tax pictured recently
LBRuT Deputy Leader, Big Sam (that’s Geoffrey Samuel not Sam Allardyce btw), said “With unprecedented Government cuts to our funding, and increased pressure on social care, it simply isn’t feasible to freeze the tax any more. We now need to find a new way to deliver future services, working more collaboratively with our residents and partners. This will take time. The only way we can cover the costs of vital services for the next year is to raise Council Tax and the adult social care precept”. Some of the savings will continue to flow from the merger of Richmond and Wandsworth Councils’ operations functions, others are no doubt ‘tbc’.
The seat of El Brute power
The rise comes at a time when business rates continue to cause concern for many local traders and when newly announced National Insurance increases for the self-employed will add financial pressure to many already feeling the pinch.
So, are you happy that El Brute says it is raising Council Tax to protect important services or hacked off that you’re facing an above inflation rise after years of stable bills? Err, or both at the same time maybe?
* LBRuT Press Release
* LBRuT Council Tax Page
If you thought you’d had your fill of chances to ‘have your say’ on the expansion of Heathrow then you’d be wrong. If you thought that as a local resident your views would count for very little when stacked up against those of politicians and business, then you’d be right. Hey ho, that’s the way it goes but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have your say yet again in a brand new exercise. There are even things you can turn up to in Twickenham and other local towns.
This time it’s a Government consultation on their ‘approved’ option for a new third runway to the north west of the current two. It was launched recently and runs until 25th May and so there’s plenty of time for your views to be discounted. In launching the consultation, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling referenced leaving the EU as a reason why building airport capacity at Heathrow is ‘crucial’ for UK growth and thus the endless years of debate about Heathrow have become Brexitified. With Gatwick beaten into second place, expansion at Heathrow looks certain to happen, unless of course it takes so long to reach a final, final, final agreement that Star Trek style teleporting technology supersedes cramming people into giant metal tubes with engines tacked on the sides. The current thinking seems to be that a new north west runway could be delivered by 2026, so let’s call that 2032 to be on the safe side. It might even be finished before the new Twickenham station!
Plane landing at Heathrow
2017 is up and running, we’re one month in and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Is this going to be the year when work on Twickenham station finally gets underway?’ You think that but you know, deep down in your heart of hearts that there’s a fair chance it could end up being next year, or the year after, or maybe never. Twickenham Station? Twickenham Stationary more like!
A warm welcome to Twickenham
Word on the street seems to be that Solum Regeneration, the company behind the big development, is planning to finally get things moving in April. It seems so long ago since their overly large mish mash of styles received approval from El Brute’s Planning Wonks. It is a long time ago. Solum has dabbled with the idea of progress but it’s been kicked back on several occasions for whatever reasons. It seems that things have proved a little more complicated than originally envisaged. Add to that part-owner Kier Property selling its share of the Solum joint venture with Network Rail to Capital & Counties Properties Plc and maybe explains part of the dither-fest of the last few years. It might do but Kier are still committed to the Twickenham scheme with C&C moving some of the others forward. So far, so nothing.
A station. In Twickenham
The reality seems to be that Solum and the RFU can’t get themselves organised to agree the dates at which the station work can get underway. There’s rugby (and money) at stake don’t you know. The ‘possession’ dates planned so far for 2017 begin on April 9th and are dotted across the year but some already clash with rugby or NFL games which could see them move yet again. And this is only for ‘enabling works’ such as setting up the temporary ticket office in the car park, moving cables and hoarding off works areas. Mary’s Terrace residents can expect a ring side seat for all this work and it’s not even the big stuff. The message seems to be don’t hold your breath because April 9th could easily become June or September and so on. We’ll just have to see who wins this tedious ‘tug of station love’ between the RFU, Network Rail and Solum.
Here’s what you would have won
Meanwhile the ‘community cultural hub’ slap bang opposite the station which has been something of a mystery in terms of purpose and management will now be run by St Mary’s University.
Obviously to attract students there it’s going to require them to walk past about a dozen pubs and a couple of kebab shops first which could present a significant challenge but having St Mary’s involved might bring some fresh thinking to central Twickenham. The building will comprises a 300 seat theatre space, six multi-purpose studio rooms and a large conservatory area. So, what’s actually going to happen there then? St Mary’s say we can expect a cafe that will be open to the public, theatre, film, comedy and music nights and the inevitable conference and venue hire options. Full details have yet to be finalised but it would be good to see the building getting regular use with events that appeal to the whole community and not just becoming a satellite student union building or a bland conference facility. Managed in the right way it could bring something new to the town. Let’s hope so.
A hub. In the community.
* Network Rail – Kier sells its stake in Solum (old news)
* St Mary’s University to run community building
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
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
REVISED: This item is an updated and re-vamped version of the one published on 12th July.
Twickenham riverside site from Embankment
Folks, for months we had been expecting the big reveal, the grand unveiling, or, if you will, the presentation to end all presentations! We are of course talking about the revised plans for the Twickenham Riverside development. Remember that old thing? How could you not? It’s big. Well, after trailing the pop-up shop to review the revised designs, we’re now told we’ll have a wait a while yet as more consultation is required. Apparently.
As you full well know, and do not pretend that you don’t, when El Brute presented their regency inspired ‘design concept’ for the site last year it was met with views that ranged from mild disappointment all the way to downright anger. OK, so there was indifference too and even a small smattering of delight but for the most part the ideas presented fell quite a way short of what most residents were hoping for. Be honest, have you actually met anyone who really liked the design? The much discussed town square seemed to be missing, the opening up of the King Street shops to the river via Water Lane hadn’t happened and the prospect of a regency inspired amphitheatre with up to 40 flats on top didn’t really compute with the brief of making best use of this prime riverside location. The colonnade of shops didn’t go down well either, although the creation of garden space in front of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens was generally popular… except with people who currently park their cars there. So far, so meh! For others, the fact that the plans were not a new lido also presented a major obstacle.
Extract of design from LBRuT website
El Brute sought feedback and the result was a resounding ‘no thanks’ from the hundreds who took the time to reply. Of the 754 consultation responses received just 93 said the plans met the needs of the local community. Ouch! A local Riverside Action Group was formed to try to persuade Richmond Council to re-think the whole process but the Council pressed on, telling you lot that it would listen to your views and make amendments to the designs that had been created by its chosen architects, Q&F Terry (esteemed “designers of new classical buildings”) who had won El Brute’s ‘competition’. Continue reading
And in other news… After months of campaigning, claiming, counter-claiming and downright confusing-ing, the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. In a tumultuous referendum, the country has decided to roll back over 40 years of Project Europe and try to re-assert its political independence. Nationally it was a close call, with 52% voting to leave and 48% to remain but here in London’s premier borough the result was more clear cut with 31% opting for out and 69% to stay in. El Brute announced the Borough’s results in the early hours of the morning but even before then the direction of travel was clear.
Local MP Tania Mathias described herself as ‘Euro cautious’ but voted Remain. Meanwhile over the river Zac Goldsmith voted Leave. Uncertainty across the country and internationally about the impact of Brexit will also see yet another airing of questions of local importance such as a third runway at Heathrow. Is it more or less likely now? And what about the impact on jobs, inflation and house prices?
So, as you digest your Full English Brexfast this morning you can ponder on why Twickenham and Richmond bucked the national trend and whether, like Scotland, calls will grow for an independence referendum in the Borough to allow it to secure its very own membership of the EU. After all, if Luxembourg can get a seat at the top table, why not Richmond? After all, they’re both duchies of a sort.
Oh, and here’s the LBRuT announcement.
The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death seems like an apposite time for an update on the Twickenham Riverside development. Why? Well, we’ve got comedy, tragedy, a cast of memorable characters, history repeating itself and bitter power struggles. Add to that the option for referencing this saga to the titles of Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. The Comedy of Errors or As True Likes It, etc, etc, add your own versions at the end) and then top it off with the possibility that we might get an amphitheatre on which we’ll be able to see it all acted out one day. Bostin’ as they say in the Midlands although whether they say it as far south as Stratford-upon-Avon is a mystery (to us).
You’ll recall that after having listened to local residents across several consultations over several years, the Council went away, did some mulling and cogitating, worked with big name architects Q&F Terry and then unveiled designs for the riverside which nobody particularly seemed to like. Oh dear. LBRuT (pron: El Brute) then announced that it would work on revisions which would take account of residents’ feedback and, possibly, just possibly, make the scheme do the things that it was originally supposed to do, namely create a useful town square and open up central Twickenham to the river.
Twickenham riverside site from Embankment
You’ve probably seen this building loads of times. Perhaps you walk past it every day on your way to the station. Maybe you’ve even pondered on how it’s possible to put so much scaffolding against one single structure? But what exactly is it?
Brewery Wharf, Twickenham
Why, it’s the new ‘community and cultural building’ for Twickenham of course! It’s part of the large Brewery Wharf development that’s going up on the old Royal Mail sorting office site. It’s a big site and will include over one hundred new flats and houses with a very light sprinkling of shared ownership homes too. Part of the deal for the development was for some kind of community building that would benefit the town. It’s not a bad idea even if, according to us here at twickerati HQ, it’s in the wrong place. Wouldn’t it be better located right, slap bang in the town centre, possibly even as part of the Twickenham riverside development? We think so, but what do we know. Anywayyyyy…
Richmond Council has stepped up its campaign to secure royal status for the borough. It’s no secret that leading Councillors are keen to add the ‘royal’ moniker to the borough’s name and to secure all the prestige and pageantry that goes with it. It would be a major coup for LBRuT if they can pull it off.
York House: Home to El Brute
As part of its £2m ‘Project Royal’ campaign the Council is planning to splash the cash on a ‘Royalty Festival’ and street parties to celebrate the Borough’s connections with the monarchy. The festival will take place in Marble Hill Park in June at a time when many people will be holding street parties to celebrate the Queen’s 90th Birthday. The Marble Hill event will feature a giant, free street party for anyone who wants to attend. Planning is already well underway and Council Leader Lord True, aka The Blue Baron, has gone on the record to say: “The 90th birthday of our monarch should be a glorious occasion for us all to get together and celebrate her reign and the service she has given to our nation. I am thrilled to be able to host an event in one of the Borough’s most beautiful open spaces and have been working closely with the Parks Department on the plans. The Parks team have already adopted some of my exciting ‘lawn art’ ideas for making the grounds look suitably regal. Furthermore, I and several other Councillors will be leading a royal parade by way of entertainment”. Continue reading