Category Archives: Council

True Time is Over at El Brute

The 4th of July marks the final day of the Blue Baron bossing the show at El Brute.  Conservative Council Leader Nick True, aka The Blue Baron aka The Duke of York (House), is stepping down from the role after 7 years in the hot seat. True will also bring to a close his position as Councillor for East Sheen by not standing in next year’s local elections.  He is being replaced as leader by Councillor Paul Hodgins who has yet to be assigned an appropriate twickerati nickname.  Hodgins is Councillor for Barnes and has been gracing the corridors of York house since 2006 where he has most recently been Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools. We’re not privy to the workings of the Council or the local Conservative Party but we might have expected a more high profile name such as Pamela Fleming to get the gig but that’s not the case. Is it a case of going from Lord True to Mr Who?

True’s legacy will be the subject of debate for years if not decades to come. OK, probably not but his quotes in assorted El brute press releases were always entertaining and irritating in equal measure.  He certainly did a lot of “slamming” and of course who could forget his withering request for “A period of silence from certain all too well ventilated local voices”.

He has been vocal in opposition to Heathrow expansion, has presided over the merger of the administrative and commissioning functions of Richmond and Wandsworth Councils and has led an authority which largely kept Council tax flat whilst making savings to its operational budgets and services. In Twickenham the early part of his Baronial Reign saw the redevelopment of the derelict swimming pool site to create the Diamond Jubilee Gardens.

He generated his fair share of controversy too. A campaign against LBRuT’s approval of Solum’s large scale development of Twickenham station was defeated in law.  He also championed the creation of a new Roman Catholic Secondary School with ‘voluntary aided’ status. That also went to legal fisticuffs in which the Baron triumphed again. But he didn’t get his way when it came to the Battle of the Gloriana. When True announced that the park at Orleans Riverside would become home to a large boat house for the former royal barge owned by fellow Lord, Lord Sterling, the locals weren’t impressed.  A very vocal campaign rallied against developing (and paying for) a new greenfield riverside home for the boat and eventually the plan was dropped. True’s dream of a “crystal palace for a fairy craft” (yes real words!) had turned to dust.

True’s Council took the positive step of aquiring the rest of the old pool site and nearby shops to improve Twickenham Riverside but now it will be left to Clls Hodgins and Fleming to carry the torch for Francis Terry’s retro-themed riverside scheme as the debate on the best use of the site rumbles on.

Twickerati van gets LBRuT branding and a special server

We hope that new Leader Paul Hodgins does what’s best for Twickenham, whatever that is and of course only you know that.  And we say, best of luck to Lord True in new ventures… although we’re not sure he’ll take up our suggestion of serving up ice creams from the van. Nice idea though eh?

 

UPDATE

Hodgins (or is that Paul “Whodgins?”) has already announced his own reshuffle of the El Brute Cabinet.  In ‘selected highlights’, David Marlow (South Twickenham) will become Deputy Leader while remaining as Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health.  Pamela Fleming (South Richmond) will also become Deputy Leader and continue as Cabinet Member for Environment, Business and Community. Stephen Speak (North Richmond) takes on the expanded role of Strategic Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance.  Children’s Services and Schools (Hodgins’ former brief) goes to Susan Chappell (Twickenham Riverside).  Two new roles have been introduced: Martin Seymour (Hampton North) takes on the new role of Cabinet Member for Planning and Strategic Development. He’s the lucky lad who will need to help Pamela Fleming sort out Twickenham Riverside, and Gareth Elliott (Whitton) will take up the new post of Cabinet Member for Digital and Technology. What a time to be alive eh?

 

And finally here’s something that is totally unlreated and was definitely not filmed at York House. It’s not a tribute or even a “Trubute”.  We find it amusing though, eh Ted?

 

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Time for Another Twickenham Riverside Development (& Car Park) Consultation

Water Lane car park – Twickenham riverside

Another season, another Twickenham riverside consultation. Running from June until 11th July you have a chance to give some more feedback on El Brute’s grand plan for Twickenham Riverside. You remember! It’s the one that architect Francis Terry has come up with. So much for all this talk about Labour or the Tories or the DUP or whoever returning Britain to the 1970s, this is the plan that takes plucky Twickenham back to the 70s… the 1770s, except that Twickenham wasn’t like this back then.

In the latest consultation document, Councillor Pamela Fleming said “In thirty-five years there has not been consensus on the best way of improving this beautiful stretch of the riverside, but at last we seem to be moving in the right direction. This has only been achieved by working together and recognising how passionate people are about the area. I hope we can continue this partnership and that together we can create a scheme that will enhance Twickenham and be enjoyed for years to come”. Quite. There has been some progress brought about by those passionate Twickenham residents but LBRuT needs to keep listening and act on what it hears.

Twickenham riverside site from Embankment

Yes we all want to see the site improved and LBRuT are billing this project as ‘New Heart for Twickenham’ which all sounds jolly good. Terry’s retro-designs remain and it’s clear that LBRuT have no intention of changing that. He won a ‘competition’, innit? Everyone has a different view of what should be done in terms of the remit and scale of the development but certain themes are common such as a proper town square or community area, limiting the extent of the commercialisation of the site in terms of flats, the need to better connect King Street to the river and finding a better solution to using prime river frontage as a car park. Continue reading

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Farewell to Florist as Station Development Gets Underway

Solum’s ‘regeneration’ of Twickenham station will finally get going in the next few weeks. Sort of. This was the development that dithered and dallied but was then definitely going to take place after the Rugby World Cup back in 2015. It’s now 2017 and, true to their word and the very passing of time itself, it still is definitely after the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

It’s been a long wait. The process will see preparatory work take place before and a new station building goes up and the construction of new residential blocks. Think several years’ worth of work.

Peter the florist – moved on

One of the by-products of the project is that  we say goodbye to the Puccino cafe outside the station, the ABC newsagent and Peter the Florist whose “Two bunches for five fifty therrrrre” has been a regular refrain outside the station for many years. And of course, who can forget the fateful day when prices went up 10% taking those all important two bunches from “a fiver, therrrre” to “five fifty”?

No bunches for five fifty!

Although the development itself can hardly be news to anyone let alone the traders affected – it’s been ‘almost happening’ for years – the word is that Peter was given just one week’s formal notice to vacate. Hmmm. Assuming that’s correct that’s not great Solum. His pitch is within Solum’s development boundary and perhaps they were not obliged to offer alternatives either.  And what of Richmond Council? El Brute’s Pamela Fleming tweeted that, “Our licensing officers are proactive in helping him relocate”.  That’s good, although one might wonder why nothing had been finalised with only days to go before the deadline.  Peter’s most likely destination is Teddington but at least one option in Twickenham has been explored.  Surely there must be one spot in the town where he could continue selling to local shoppers and commuters?

ABC News – closed

Hoardings are due to go up soon (note the blue marker lines on the pavement) and a building site created. Strange to think that the old sorting office site opposite has been almost fully rebuilt in the years that the station development has not been happening. Funny old world innit?

LINK:
* Richmond Council Page on Twickenham Station Development

* Sign up for updates from Solum on the construction sheme

 

And finally. Thanks for the memories….

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St Mary’s Expansion Plans Cause Local Concern

Forget trouble at t’mill, there’s trouble at t’Hill.  A plan for a big expansion of St Mary’s University is causing consternation among the residents of leafy Strawberry Hill.  The university, “off of Mo Farah”, has a grand vision to grow in size and prestige over the period to 2025. So far, so normal. So normal, perhaps until the scale of the plan becomes apparent.

The aim is to increase student numbers by close to 60% from just under 6,000 to around 9,000 and make room for them by building on the existing athletic and sports facilities at the Waldegrave Road site and developing their Teddington Lock playing fields with a new track, pitch and infrastructure.

St Mary’s University, Waldegrave Road

Concerned Strawberry Hillers (or are they Hillites?) fear the large expansion in student numbers and the accompanying new ‘student village’ will put excessive stain on their sleepy streets, fill them with students (and their cars) and generally have a detrimental impact on the area, with knock-on effects into Twickenham and Teddington. This development would also require building over Metropolitan Open Land, causing a loss of valuable green space.

Waldegrave Road sports fields and open space

Whilst we all want da yoof to get a good education ready for the exciting post-Brexit world, a 60% expansion in numbers at what is essentially a small educational establishment tucked away in a leafy suburb of a leafy suburb (yeah, deal with it, Hillers) does constitute a material change in scale.  New student halls (up to 11 in total) and new teaching blocks? Would things progress quite so smoothly if the construction work was for residential housing? We’re not so sure. But then again…

St Mary’s, Teddington Lock, playing fields

Traffic and parking is already a big issue on and around Waldegrave Road and ramping up the infrastructure at Teddington Lock will add to parking pressure in that neck of the woods too.

St Mary’s: new buildings go here. Accommodation in blue, teaching in pink

The St Mary’s “Vision 2025” states: “The intensely competitive environment for universities in the UK makes this a critical and exhilarating period in our drive to make St Mary’s a leading university. However, we start from a position of strength. We have a distinct mission and purpose, and a clear vision of the future”.  St Mary’s have worked with El Brute on a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) setting out how the estate could be developed in a way that will help deliver that vision.

However that vision is not one that chimes with some local residents.  The Neighbours of St Mary’s group are hoping to make the University and the Council take note of their concerns over the planned expansion. A representative told twickerati: “We think if the development is allowed to go ahead, it will destroy Strawberry Hill village forever, at a time when the Council themselves are trying to increase the village feel as part of their recent Village Planning… Why can’t the University do what others have successfully done, building second campus sites or spreading halls around an area using brownfield, low impact or town centre sites?”

So there you have it, the conundrum of a grand educational vision but one which will have a significant impact on a quiet residential neighbourhood. Who’s right? You decide.

LINKS & INFO:
St Mary’s are running drop in sessions on from 6pm to 8pm on 24th April 2017 and again on 6th May 2017 (10.30am-4pm). Stop by if you want to find out more or have your say, or click on the links below.

* St Mary’s University – Vision 2025
* Neighbours of St Mary’s University – local residents group

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Twickerati in New LBRuT Partnership

There are big changes afoot for twickerati Newly announced support from Richmond Council means that this blog will be able to play a bigger role in communicating news about what the Council is doing.  As part of the arrangement, this twickerati blog along with several others across the Borough will become part-funded by the Council. In return the hyperlocal websites will promote Council stories and cover  the facts Richmond’s leaders believe that locals should be focusing on.

From a twickerati perspective this is good news. Blog Editor Russell said, “The team and I have discussed this in great detail. We all genuinely believe that after nearly seven years of blogging from an independent perspective a fresh approach is required to better engage with the community.  Looking back we can see that we have often covered stories from a narrow and often rather limited perspective.  Take the Gloriana boat house for example. In hindsight we believe that could have made important strides in developing a tired and run down local park.  We now look forward to working closely with Lord True and the rest of the LBRuT team to keep Twickenham residents up to date with what’s going on.  With the Council’s resources behind us we’ll be able to do real justice to the stories that matter”.

In an El Brute Press Release, Director of Communications, Mike Coles said: “With so many unreliable news outlets and so much wanton distortion of the facts across social media this new deal will cut through to the stories that matter. We’ll be presenting the true facts using trusted partners. We begin rolling out our new partnership by adding some Richmond Council branding to twickerati, Teddingtonia and TotalRichmond, by sharing stories and through merging our twitter feeds. Our first big initiative will see leading Councillors take the news to the residents in a re-painted version of the iconic twickerati ice cream van. Keep a look out for it on Twickenham riverside.”

In a series of tweets from the official @lbrut Twitter account, Richmond Council Leader Lord True said:

“Too many pot shots from failing local media. Many blogs misinformed and overrated. So sad”

“We now have the chance for more constructive relationships with all local bloggers, bypassing mainstream media.”

“Time to get to work getting the truth out there. No more fake news. We can now deal in real FACTS”

“Joining forces with @twickerati, @teddingtonia & @totalrichmond makes sense. Great borough. The Best.”

Exciting times, eh?  We think you will like the new look and we hope you will love our more mainstream approach to covering local news. Our next feature will be an in-depth look at the plans for making Twickenham riverside great again and that will be followed in May by a re-appraisal of the Twickenham station development.

Mr Whippy. Twickerati van gets LBRuT branding.

LINKS:

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Council Tax Freeze Thaws

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?

LINKS:
* LBRuT Press Release
* LBRuT Council Tax Page

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Another Heathrow Airport Expansion Consultation

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

Plane landing at Heathrow

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Twickenham Stationary While Community Hub Moves Forward

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

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

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

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.


LINKS:
* Network Rail – Kier sells its stake in Solum (old news)

* St Mary’s University to run community building

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Public Meeting Planned Over El Brute’s Romano-Regency Riverside Plan

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

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

Public meeting about Twickenham Riverside

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