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Saturday 23rd October
Saving Twickenham Riverside

THE HISTORY OF TWICKENHAM RIVERSIDE SITE SINCE THE CLOSURE OF TWICKENHAM OUTSIDE BATHS

- bought by the Council in 1924 for the purpose of providing "public walks and pleasure grounds"




Twickenham Riverside 1980 - 2000

It seems that throughout the years our Council administrations have changed after residents have become very dissatisfied with Council development plans. This definitely appears to be the case with the old pool site on Twickenham Riverside but other development issues have also played a part.

“Twickenham Riverside” has been a contentious issue since the closure of the popular Twickenham Baths in 1980. The history of the site and immediate area was recorded by the Richmond Environmental Information Centre (REIC) during a two-year Heritage Lottery Fund project and can be viewed at Memories of Twickenham Riverside. Our primary historical research goes back to 1662! But back to more recent times ....

In 1980, while under a Conservative administration which lasted until 1983, Twickenham Baths were suddenly and unexpectedly closed for “refurbishment” and never opened again. You can read and hear people’s memories which were recorded by the REIC on the Lidos Alive website. It is interesting to note that in January 1982 the Council’s Planning Committee Minutes recorded that the Council’s view was there should be no housing development on the site.

In 1991, whilst there was a Liberal Democrat administration, a scheme was put forward for a Marks & Spencer store but permission was refused following the intervention of the Department of the Environment and a Public Enquiry in 1991 – “Commercial ambitions were to be kept subordinate.” (reference:Twickenham Museum). This particular scheme was of some interest to me as I used the proposal in a business studies case study for a group of my pupils at a local school. After preparing their questionnaires we went to Twickenham High Street where the students interviewed shoppers about what they would like to see on the old pool site. The overwhelming result was positive for Marks & Spencer – no doubt as Twickenham High Street left much to be desired as a destination for shoppers. And in 2021 Twickenham's High Street is still in need of regeneration.

To return to Twickenham Riverside ... In 1996 the Council held a competition for plans for the Twickenham Riverside site. There were five schemes and it was hoped that there might be some Lottery funding but this was refused.

1999 saw a proposal for the Twickenham Riverside site for thirty-nine flats, six restaurants, shops, an auditorium for over four hundred and fifty people, three cinemas and very limited parking. This was considered to be “over development” and following public outcry the Council asked for a smaller version; there were various rethinks but nothing came of any of the proposals. During the year 2000 a proposal for a Heritage/Arts Centre was put forward and a three-screen cinema but this was not supported by the Council.

Twickenham Riverside 2000 - 2021

In 2001 a planning application was submitted by Dawnay Day. The Council gave the go-ahead for forty flats, shops, a restaurant and a health and fitness centre – some people have been heard to say that one of the current plans looks like the Dawnay Day development. However, a Public Enquiry put a stop to the Dawnay Day proposal; an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was requested but seems not to have taken place at the time. (However, during the planning application put forward by the Liberal Democrats in September 2021, an EIA dated April 2020 and labelled "Restricted" was accidentally found on the internet).

Serge Lourie became the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2001 but the Conservatives gained office from 2002 to 2006. Perhaps this was the see-saw effect of unpopular proposals for Twickenham Riverside and maybe the final realization that there would not be a replacement ice rink? (REIC HLF project The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World).

During these years the Twickenham Challenge for Twickenham Riverside appeared. One of the members of the REIC (Richmond Environmental Information Centre) was very interested in a Duke of Edinburgh Award Centre; other proposals were the Environment Trust’s proposal for a River Centre, the Busen Anglo-Japanese Club and the Laura Sevenus Swimming School.

Café and Children's Playground Opened

In 2005 the children's playground, café and toilets were opened, along with a new retaining wall. Landscaping was carried out at the front of the site. The [award winning] garden area hosted an array of plants selected to provide an attractive environment for bees and butterflies; overall, the first positive steps since the pool site closed in 1980, but the art deco building had been demolished. (Note: it seems that the swimming pool may not have been entirely removed - 2021).

From 2006 to 2010 the Liberal Democrats took office. Four housing developments were put forward in 2008 (along with the Environment Trust’s River Centre which had entered the Twickenham Challenge) – the Countryside Properties company was chosen as the developer by the administration.

There was huge opposition to housing on the site and after consultation with the Department for Communities and Local Government - with which I had some association - I decided to become a client of Electoral Reform Services (ERS) to find out what residents wanted (Serge Lourie refused to carry out a requested referendum). However a group of local residents came forward to share the cost and eventually most of the money was spontaneously donated by those living in Twickenham, Strawberry Hill and other towns in the borough, along with many letters of support. This only goes to show the strength of feeling in the community to preserve Twickenham Riverside.

Four thousand people (at the cost of £1 for each person) in the Parish of St Mary’s were given a vote. The area chosen radiated out from Twickenham Riverside: 41.7% voted and the result was 93.5% against housing on Twickenham Riverside.

Local community groups such as Save Our Riverside and the Richmond United Group promoted the result of the referendum gaining much public support. It is also interesting to note that at this stage Twickenham Riverside was taken up by national journalists in the New Statesman, Private Eye and in the London Evening Standard.

Subsequently the Liberal Democrat administration of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames lost office although their Linked Sites Strategy went ahead:

(It should be remembered that before leaving office the Liberal Democrat administration signed off a "Linked Sites Strategy" for the Twickenham Riverside site. This scheme allowed the affordable housing component of their housing plan to be off-loaded onto other sites in the Borough. The sites designated for affordable housing in the Linked Sites Strategy included a number of garage sites and various garden plots, including a community garden. This housing was built and it seemed that the affordable housing for the Twickenham Riverside site had been fulfilled, although it is understood that the Hopkins plan (2021) also includes 50% "affordable" housing.)

As a point of interest, as a serving Committee Member of the Strawberry Hill Residents' Association (2007-2021) with a responsibitity for planning at this time, I was asked to advise residents who were concerned about an attractive garden plot which was one of the Linked Sites, unfortunately, like other garage and garden sites this Strawberry Hill garden did not escape the Linked Sites plan.

Boris Plants a Tree and Diamond Jubilee Gardens opened by HRH Princess Alexandra

In the Spring of 2011, Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, took part in a tree planting ceremony relatively near the café; the following year the gardens were opened by HRH Princess Alexandra.

In 2014 the Council purchased the "Santander Corner" in Twickenham including an adjoining car park: "properties on King Street and Water Lane, connecting to the derelict Pool House buildings owned by the Council".

A Charitable Trust was formed in 2014 with a 125 year was lease designed to protect the Diamond Jubilee Gardens ... And in January 2014 Diamond Jubilee Gardens, in Conservation Area 8 Twickenham Riverside, was designated a Public Open Space:

The land approved as Public Open Space: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Decision at Council January 2014

"Cabinet approve the designation of land at Diamond Jubilee Gardens, Twickenham, identified in the attached plan, as Public Open Space under Section 122 of the Local Government Act 1972. Cabinet consider and approve the granting of a lease to an appropriate Trust, that being Twickenham Riverside Trust, to ensure that the land is held in trust for the benefit of residents."

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Website: "Diamond Jubilee Gardens on Twickenham Riverside have been formally protected, following approval by Richmond Council’s Cabinet. The gardens have been designated as public open space and are protected for public use, performances and events. The picturesque spot was established and opened in 2012, and is located on the site of the former Twickenham Lido."

Further Competitions to Develop Twickenham Riverside

In 2015 another competition for the Twickenham Riverside site took place. I advised on one of the four schemes (by a prominent global company) with my colleague, Berkley Driscoll; this plan had a lido and health spa on part of the site but unfortunately never saw the light of day – and the Council’s chosen architect for the site eventually went the way of all the others.

This time the Environment Agency stepped in at the planning stage and the “see-saw” effect of the old pool site brought the Liberal Democrats back to office once again.

And now we have the Hopkins Design with housing proposed, a proposal for a pub, and much cause for concern about the future of this unique Conservation Area on the Thames:

There is also a popular plan for the site, Twickenham Lido which has around five thousand supporters signing its petition (with comments) but the Council does not seem to want to replace the outside pool which has been left buried under the site for many years.

Liberal Democrat LBRUT Administration Threaten a Compulsory Purchase Order on Trust Land

During a Council meeting, open to public viewing, it was noted that the Council raised the threat of a Compulsory Purchase Order on the Trust Lease; the lease does not expire until 2139.

The Lease on Diamond Jubilee Gardens

If the Twickenham Riverside Chariable Trust (charity number 1147557) were to consider surrendering its lease on the Gardens the Charities Commission need to be informed followed by a complex process.

The following was published on the website of the Twickenham Riverside Trust but little seems to be known about the situation at present (July 2021):

"The Trust is working hard to improve the provision of public open space within the Council’s proposed scheme. Our statutory obligation, as defined by the Charity Commission, is to ensure that any exchange or reprovision of land is ‘equally advantageous’ to the people of Twickenham. We are optimistic that a fair agreement with Richmond Council will be reached and we will do our best to keep you updated through the news section of our website."

This information is of note:

When the land in question is “designated land”, as is the case with Diamond Jubilee Gardens, in some cases the charity must conduct a public consultation. Even where it is not a legal obligation, the Charity Commission advises that this is good practice. The Trust plans to do this shortly? But there is no notification of this taking place since the initial announcement.

"The Trust is also liaising with and seeking feedback from local Stakeholder Groups, many of whom were part of the RIBA Competition Stakeholders Reference Group" (SRG). However, not all members of the SRG have been contacted (9 July 2021).

Planning Announcement on 16 June 2021

LBRUT (Richmond Council) announced that they are submitting a planning application (July 2021) for luxury flats and a pub - there are currently over 20 pubs within walking distance from Twickenham Riverside, land designated as Public Open Space and held in Trust for the residents of the Borough.

There will be affordable housing on the land bought by the Council in 2014 which is to the side of the main site and next to a road.

Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO): 18 June 2021

A Council report (Finance, Policy and Resources Committee) confirmed that LBRUT had started discussions to impose Compulsory Purchase powers (CPO) on Twickenham Riverside Public Open Space, currently protected by a Charitable Trust with a lease of over a hundred years.

Council meeting 28 June 2021: The Cost of a CPO - A Borough-wide concern?

Not only is there an issue about the Council placing a Compulsory Purchase Order on Public Open Space, the cost of a CPO will be enormous. Is it justified that the Council should commit so much time and money to build a block of luxury flats and a pub on this protected land?

For those who point out the need for affordable housing, this will not be on the main site but next to a road on land already acquired for this purpose - and, an affordable housing component has already been built (see Linked Sites above).

As we have seen with climate change there is the importance of balancing building and development with care for our environment; our public open spaces in our towns and cities should be preserved:

"Our public spaces, rivers and coasts are important to our physical and mental health providing space for exercise and reflection; it is essential that we safeguard them." (the United Nations - World Environment Day).

WHAT IS THE FINANCIAL COST OF A CPO?

"In a report to this Committee 16 November 2020 it was noted that the estimated costs associated with the preparatory stage of preparing for a CPO and obtaining a full Council resolution would be approximately £35,000 in respect of the associated professional fees. And that should the Council be required to use its CPO powers, the full fees costs associated with completing the Order are estimated to be £250,000. The total estimated acquisition costs for the properties are estimated to be £600k and will be met from existing budgets."

And, the additional cost if this is contested. Over a £million? The Director of the Environment, Paul Chadwick, is remembered as saying at a recorded webcast meeting that he wasn't sure at what date the full price would in fact be disclosed.

Comment from Twickenham resident: "Regarding cost, note that the Council is also obliged to pay all the Trust's costs for the latter's data gathering in order to defend any CPO application (if it ever comes to that stage)".

Residents throughout the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames should be aware of how spending this relatively large proportion of the Council's budget on a Compulsory Purchase Order on Public Open Space, protected by a Charitable Trust, will impinge on Council services on which many residents rely.

With regard to the Compulsory Purchase Order the LBRUT Director of the Environment said "we have the power to do it". Gareth Roberts the Leader of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames Council is recorded as saying "It is right that we have this [the CPO] up our sleeve should we need to do so".

The Council concluded that if the Twickenham Riverside Trust did not agree with the Council by September 2021 that the powers of a CPO would be implemented.

12 September 2021

LBRUT Finance, Policy and Resources Committee:

“It was noted that some members of the Finance Committee had misgivings about committing to the scheme’s cost when residents were not aware of these in full.”
It should also be noted that the Vice-Chair of this Committee (married to Twickenham's Liberal Democrat MP) has supported the application on the planning website Comments, not as CLLR but MR; I am informed that this should disqualify him from taking part in the planning meeting and deciding whether the plan will go ahead.

UPDATE 14 September 2021

On 14 Septemner the local Liberal Democrat Party sent out a number of unsolicited emails to residents stating that there had been 40 years of neglect on Twickenham Riverside. Example photographs of the "neglect" were of the locked Council car park in Water Lane - the former "Santander" car park. A councillor promoting the planning application paid for an advertisement on Facebook which promoted this email.


COMMENTS

A Comment from Teddington in relation to the Linked Sites Scheme for Twickenham Riverside

It must be remembered that "the affordable housing for the original [Twickenham Riverside] site was built in Shacklegate Lane and Railway Road Teddington, although the planned luxury housing never got built on the site itself."

The comment above refers to the Linked Sites Scheme for the Twickenham Riverside site. A community garden in Sherland Road in Twickenham also suffered from the scheme as well as a garden in Strawberry Hill.

Affordable housing is not an issue here (luxury flats - full market value - are proposed on Charitable Trust land) - but a Vanity Project is something which comes to mind.

A Comment from the Duputy Mayor of London (Sport)

Twickenham Riverside would be an ideal location to develop river sports.


Surely the residents of the Borough deserve more than a pub on this unique part of the Thames which is registered in our name?


RELEVANT HERITAGE LOTTERY PROJECTS: Lidos Alive (including Twickenham), and Memories of Twickenham Riverside.

An alternative scheme for Twickenham Riverside: Twickenham Lido, with enormous public support and thousands of comments from local people.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: conservation, history, and views and vistas

The old pool site and Riverside Conservation Area 8

"The Village core, on the raised river terrace including Church Street and its associated alleyways, forms a focal point when viewed from the Thames and is closely linked to it. The medieval settlement is clearly visible from as far away as Radnor Gardens, Ham House and Richmond Hill. Physical and visual links between the original village street, Church Street, and the River Thames are very important as evidence of the village’s historical development and present day character."

TWICKENHAM RIVERSIDE - ONCE THE SITE OF RICHMOND HOUSE:

Prior to Twickenham Baths, Richmond House, a very grand and impressive house, stood on the Twickenham Riverside site for centuries (1662-1923). The story starts with the Birkheads. Edward, the first inhabitant married Eleanor Myddleton. Members of the Birkhead and Middleton families emigrated to America and Henry Middleton was a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence. Towards the end of a Heritage Lottery project in June 2013 Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was pleased to receive a copy of “Richmond House” with information about links to Twickenham).

Some of the other inhabitants who lived in Richmond House on Twickenham Riverside:

Earl of Bradford, Lord Torrington, Countess of Shelburne, Countess of Elgin, Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe, Field Marshal Sir Edward Blakeney.

And ..... HORACE WALPOLE'S VIEW OF TWICKENHAM RIVERSIDE FROM STRAWBERRY HILL HOUSE

"The enclosed enchanted little landscape, then, is Strawberry Hill.... This view of the castle is what I have just finished [it was a view of the south side, towards the north-east], and is the only side that will be at all regular. Directly before it is an open grove, through which you see a field, which is bounded by a serpentine wood of all kind of trees, and flowering shrubs, and flowers.

The lawn before the house is situated on the top of a small hill, from whence to the left you see the town and church of Twickenham encircling a turn of the river, that looks exactly like a sea-port in miniature.

London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames Supplementary Planning Guidance for Strawberry Hill Planning Policy LP5 Views and Vistas


OTHER LOCAL LINKS:

Twickenham linking to Eel Pie Island and Ten Years of Community Events on Twickenham Riverside


Recommended
TWICKENHAM & RICHMOND TRIBUNE

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