Well over 200 people attended this meeting, in spite of the wet and windy weather, to discuss the future of the old swimming bath site.
The committee of residents who have developed the Twickenham Riverside Terrace (TRT) scheme, led by the chairman John Reekie, presented their plans for turning this derelict site into a terraced garden with free access for all. This is, of course, in direct opposition to the Richmond Council’s proposal for Dawnay Day Structured Finance Ltd to build an intensive development of luxury flats and commercial units.
The meeting opened with Clive Wren, landscape architect, showing that the TRT proposal is low intensity, low cost scheme which preserves trees and wild life, and makes optimal use of the old foundations and remaining buildings. It would build a paved terrace supported on arches overlooking the river with the rest of the site given over to landscaped gardens.
Ron Chappell, structural engineer, gave a review of the existing structures and advised that the capital cost of the scheme would be well under £1m. On the issue of security he reported on a meeting with the police security specialist who advised that with the incorporation specific design features security would be as good as other public spaces. He also explained how the site came into public ownership in 1924 when the then Twickenham Council was able to purchase it by means of a loan from the Ministry of Health which stipulated that the land must be used for public recreational and enjoyment.
The meeting was then thrown open to the floor for the residents of the Borough to express their views. This became an enthusiastic session with speaker after speaker expressing his or her determination to retain this beautiful riverside space as a free space for public recreation and to prevent yet more profit-driven, over intensive development of the riverside. Contributions from individual speakers included:
John Perry, resident, retired solicitor and property developer, said that although he was a Liberal Democrat he opposed the Council on this and had opposed its two previous schemes with developers for this site. He said that the consultations claimed by the Council were a complete sham. Not only this but anybody developing this site would make a fortune, given current riverside property values. “But with the TRT scheme, we, the people, have a chance to do something about it.”
(For an analysis of the results of the public consultations, see Jack Betteridge’s letter, “The Public Consultations” on Twickenham Online.)
Sir Peter Wakefield, resident and former diplomat, said that because of over-development on the riverside in the Borough there is now very little public space left.
Christopher Read, resident and architect, said that what we do for posterity is far more important than instant profit. “We can not afford to lose this unique site.”
Councillor Mike Gold (Labour) said that after the council elections due next May it was very possible that no one political party would have overall control. He pledged that in that event the Dawnay Day scheme would certain not be allowed to proceed. He urged everybody to have this in mind when casting their votes in the forthcoming election.
Trevor Bayliss, resident and inventor, said “we must not allow this crass development to destroy our beautiful village.” He expressed outrage at the many insensitive residential and commercial developments that have been permitted on the riverbank in recent years.
Councillor David Porter (Conservative) urged every elector to use his or her vote to oppose the sale of this land held in trust for public recreation and to give whole hearted support to the Twickenham Riverside Terrace scheme.
Judy Maciejowska, chair of the Richmond and Twickenham Green Party, said that the TRT scheme was “absolutely right for Twickenham; to create a charming, tranquil space on the riverside.” By contrast, she said, the Council’s proposed scheme is “not just ugly but quite gross.” She questioned the motivation of the Liberal Democrat Councillors prepared to virtually give away the land.
Ian McRae said that under the Council’s proposals the riverside land is being given away for virtually nothing. “This will be of great interest to the District Auditor.”
David Williams, resident: “If we let this land go now we will have lost it forever.”
Lady Camilla Panufnik, local resident and patron of the York House Society, called into question the legality of selling land held in trust for public use to a private developer. She said, “I heartily support the Twickenham Riverside Terrace scheme.”
Councillor Sir David Williams, ex-leader of the Council, spoke in support of the Dawnay Day scheme with which he has been closely associated, claiming that it had been chosen as a result of wide public consultation especially involving local groups. He outlined the history of the two previous development proposals which had been rejected, the first at a public enquiry and the second ditched by his Council after a large and hostile public meeting. He stressed that in the present Dawnay Day scheme the Council would not technically be selling the public land as they would retain the freehold.
Anthony Berens, resident and property developer, refuted Sir David’s assurances about retaining title to the freehold, and quoted 1995 legislation which gives any residential leaseholder the right to purchase the freehold to his property after five years.
Yvonne Hewett, resident, described her experience as a member of one of the working parties set up by the Council as part of its consultation exercise. Referring to this experience she countered Sir David William’s claims about the results of the Council’s consultation process.
Robert Bowcock, resident and practising architect, said he was also a member of the consultation working parties and expressed his great frustration that the Council took no notice of the results of their considerable endeavours. He has been involved in attempts to preserve the riverside since the projected Mecca development 10 years ago, and he believes very strongly that the site must be preserved for the community.
Ron Harvey, resident, pointed out that in the much lauded consultation exercise about the Dawnay Day scheme, the option for a public space was not contemplated and there was no opportunity to express this preference. This was most apparent at the public meeting called by the Council in January this year and chaired by a council official who refused any discussion of a public space option. Consequently the results of the “consultation” are meaningless.
Peter Boardman, resident, warned that if the Dawnay Day project went ahead there would be nothing to stop further sales of public riverside spaces for private developments. He warned of the danger that the whole river will soon look like that dreadful stretch between the railway and road bridges in Kingston, and like the despoiled view from Teddington Lock across to the three seven story blocks put up on the old Tough Brothers boat yard.
Only one speaker expressed support for the Dawnay Day proposals: the former leader of the Council, Sir David Williams. There were still people waiting to speak when the Chairman was obliged to close the meeting at 10 o’clock. His call for a vote showed that with only one exception (Councillor Williams) everybody present was in favour of the TRT scheme.
More than half the people attending the meeting gave in their names and addresses to record their support for the TRT scheme. There were several offers of financial donations and several cheques were received.
Everybody present was urged to register their objection to the Dawnay Day/MacCormac Jamieson Prichard/St George’s planning application (Reference 01/2584/FUL) by 2nd November by writing to:
Mr David Barnes
Planning and Building Control
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
44 York Street
Twickenham TW1 3BZ
However, it is even more important that people write to the Secretary of State requesting that this planning application be called in to be determined by his Department (ie the decision taken away from the Planning Sub-Committee of the Council). Do this by writing to:
The Secretary of State for Environment,
Transport and the Regions
Government Office for London
(Planning and Casework W and SW)
London SW1P 4RR