MY MEMORIES OF TWICKENHAM RIVERSIDE
Twickenham Riverside - Its Future (?) and Its Past
It is now December 2016 and the community work I started in Twickenham in 2008
has come full circle. Initially I was the joint chair of the Richmond United Group which brought together residents/organisations who wanted help with various issues. What would happen to the two adjacent Twickenham Riverside sites is the longest running local issue - a very popular lido closed down and the area left derelict for many years. In 2009 I became very active in the campaign to save the Riverside from a housing development, writing articles published in the local and national press and eventually organising a referendum which won the day. Subsequently, Diamond Jubilee Gardens was built on the Council owned part of Twickenham Riverside.
In 2011 I formed Twickenham Alive with Berkley Driscoll with the aim to recreate what
Twickenham had lost. We have been involved in setting up a number of local events: recreating a historic Regatta for Boys and Girls, founding a Stand Up Paddleboarding club, an annual Twickenham Film Festival and Richmond [festive] Ice Rink. For a number of years we organised the Music and Fun Day at Strawberry Hill House and lately we have started The Twickenham Times (now the Twickenham Tribune), a local newspaper. We have also found time to complete successful Heritage Lottery Projects: Memories of Twickenham Riverside and The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World (adding Lidos Alive in 2018).
Following the 2009 campaign to save Twickenham Riverside I continued to take an interest in the area. Once Berkley and I knew about a competition for land adjacent to Diamond Jubilee Gardens we lobbied to take part. As it was a competition for architects we brought in Atkins and liaised with their architects to prepare a plan for the remainder of the riverside site.
To some extent our work on the history of Twickenham Riverside was a factor in how we looked at the area. The idea of bringing back a lido was brought up by many local people, not only during our work for
the competition but during our work on Heritage Lottery projects; the old lido was one of three losses to Twickenham: the lido, the cinema and the ice rink.
I will not go into details about what has become known as the "lido project" except to say that we
believe that it could help regenerate Twickenham and would only take up a quarter of the site now available. Anyone interested in more information on this can look at the Twickenham Lido website and the petition which has almost 4,000 supporters and thousands of well thought out comments by local people.
Over the years Twickenham Alive has put forward a number of plans which have needed Council approval -
three options for a market in Twickenham, an open-air cinema on Diamond Jubilee Gardens and more recently the ice rink in Radnor Gardens. Unfortunately these particular projects were turned down by a very senior councillor although the market and the Radnor Gardens ice rink were supported by very senior Council officers - and our written proposal for an open-air cinema was used by the Council.
Often one wonders how decisions are made and last year I had a glimpse of this when I was passed an email which had been sent to the private emails of thirty-seven councillors by a very senior member of the Cabinet of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:
"During their 2006-2010 administration the LibDems came forward with a plan to turn the Riverside into luxury housing and build a so-called River Centre. This would have effectively denied public access to
the Riverside. There was huge opposition from many Twickenham groups and a very effective campaign in
which, ironically, Teresa Read, whose commitment to Twickenham no-one doubts, was an active
..... The Lido that is proposed by Teresa would effectively close off a section of the Riverside to the
public and also block much of the river view."
The email went on for some length but one really questions decision-making when one person who has so
much influence over the majority of councillors, elected by residents to represent them, behaves in this way - especially if information distributed is "economical with the actualité".
Of course the true irony of this is that the present administration, and the Cabinet Member who wrote the email, plans to build a block of flats on this beautiful spot on Twickenham Riverside, blocking the view of the river - with the millions produced from the sale of Francis Terry flats no doubt leaving Twickenham, a town very much in need of regeneration.
On 3 May 2018 the Conservative administration lost the Council with the opposition winning by a landslide. The Secretary of State has an interest in the Twickenham Riverside site and we are now waiting to find out what the new administration will propose.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2018
It seems that the process will begin again, another competition for designs for the site. Our plan for Twickenham Riverside can be seen in Edition 104 of the Twickenham Tribune with upddates also on Twickenham Lido.
2013 Twickenham Riverside
2015 Twickenham Lido2009>
2016 Richmond Rink
2016 Twickenham Tribune - Twickenham's News
2017 Lidos Alive