Twickenham Riverside Terrace Group

A riverside in trust for the community

The real challenge: TRTG’s comment on the Challenge proposals

Introduction
In 1924, a community-minded Council took the decision to purchase the area between Water Lane, Wharf Lane, The Embankment and King Street for public walks and pleasure purposes. In 1934 the open-air swimming pool was built on the site. From 1982 this site has been unused. Since 2005 an area of approximately 25% of the site now has a very popular children’s playground and café. The majority of families using this amenity are in favour of retaining its use beyond 2009.

The Twickenham Riverside Terrace Group’s (TRTG) avowed purpose is to restore the whole site to public use as public open space, an open air Jubilee Gardens, similar to Radnor Gardens, terraced as Richmond Bridge waterfront. There is no objection to a community building on part of the site. That is a building, which caters for the needs of the general public young and old and is in scale with the open-air amenity of the site.

Open space for public use is enshrined in local and nationwide tradition. The maintenance and upkeep of public open space is not costly, added to other open space in the local townscape its cost shrinks to insignificance. It behooves on each Council to keep its public open space use inviolate, particularly when that open space is Twickenham’s central access to the precious banks of the Thames and should be the main attraction to increase visitor numbers to the town, and the key element in the regeneration of the town, for its traders, and for its residents, young and old, now and in the future. TRTG does not agree that the way to achieve this is by residential and other appropriate enabling development.

Council Strategy
The present Council claims to have a 3 stage Strategy:

  • Stage 1 – A temporary playground and Café.
  • Stage 2 – The “Twickenham Challenge” which earmarks 15 to 20% of the whole site for an outside body to provide a community facility at no cost to the Council for a peppercorn rent.
  • Stage 3 – The final development of the remaining 80 to 85% of the site financed by residential and other appropriate enabling development (Cabinet 22/4/05).

The Twickenham Challenge
These proposals will be in the public domain for 1 month for public comment. This considering the volume of information offered for each proposal is an inadequate time period for the proper appraisal of the three proposals now put forward.
These are:

  • Busen Martial Arts centre (B)
  • Duke of Edinburgh Award building (E)
  • River Centre (RC)

The Council says it will appraise these according to its own criteria of a mix of 20 criteria.

TRTG has used a set of 5 criteria, as follows:

Does it coexist with the present Children’s playground and future public open space? All meet this criteria. But dependant on final mass and appearance
Does it provide a service /facility for the whole of the community young and old? Only RC meets this criteria
Is the Challenge building dependant on a Riverside location? Could it just as well be built elsewhere in Twickenham? Only RC meets this criteria
Funding All rely on outside grants voluntary funding, Lottery grants etc
(B £2.8 million)
(E £4.2 million)
(RC £2.7 million)
Assessment of viability. We have reservations for all 3 with regard to their ability to raise the finance and operating costs.

Recommendation
In view of this appraisal our recommendation is that a more full and detailed consultation is carried out with the local community and its representative groups in order that a consensus of opinion is fully explored. In doing this it should be a considered a viable alternative not to proceed down the path of residential development. To consider and offer the alternative of public open space for the whole site.

After 23 years of the whole site being closed, the community face the strong possibility of further years of delay whilst costly protracted negotiation and fund raising is carried out.

As the Council is aware the Unitary Development Plan Inspector recommended at the public inquiry:

  1. The restoration of the requirement to provide public conveniences.
  2. More explicit emphasis on the provision of public open space as the predominant feature of any redevelopment scheme ; and
  3. The requirement that the planning brief for the redevelopment of the site indicate:
    • the extent of the public open space to be provided, which should be immutable irrespective of the time scale of any proposals; and
    • the characteristics of the Conservation Area which justify its designation and to which new development should have regard.

The power to get a grip of this situation and make the Riverside a truly public open space for all ages with the present amenities in place, is within the grasp of a courageous Council. This is the challenge that should not be shirked due to expediency, lack of will, vision, or understanding, of the present and future benefit to the community of this Riverside site. Its use as public open space particularly when that open space is Twickenham’s central access to its unique banks of the Thames. Could be the main attraction to increase visitor numbers to the town, and the key element in the regeneration of Twickenham.

Yours sincerely
Ron Chappell

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