The view from Richmond Hill made famous by the artist JMW Turner was protected by an act of parliament with the Richmond, Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act 1902.
The act did not include Twickenham Riverside, which had it done so, meant it would not have led to the mess that it is today. It is a car park, some derelict buildings and the includes the grandly named Diamond Jubilee Gardens sited on land once used as a lido.
The proposal to develop Twickenham Riverside into a public space has been around for 40 years since the lido closed in 1980. Subsequent administrations have not solved the problem and many have been mired in controversy, until now?
The latest iteration of the development has seen the architects compete in a RIBA competition and gain votes from the public for the preferred option. Hopkins architects won the competition and after many hours of consultation with residents the plans are ready for the council to approve.
To move forward with planning the council needed to ensure that the land was available for work to commence so had engaged with the Twickenham Riverside Trust (TRT) and agreed a heads of terms for a handover of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens.
Then came the spanner in the works.
The trustees of the Riverside Trust who had signed the agreement stepped down and were replaced by a new set including a new chair, Luke Montgomery-Smith. The communication with the council ceased, a chartered surveyors report to review the plans, was commissioned, at the resident’s expense.
The council then proceeded with a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to keep the project moving whilst maintaining that the lines for discussion with the trust had remained open.
The trust claimed the surveyors report showed that the replacement land for the Diamond Jubilee Gardens in the plan is not of the same quality as the existing site. Therefore, the trust has objected to the CPO.
The council had set a deadline January 14th 2022 to allow more representations with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP.
The trustees are not elected representatives, they are a “self-perpetuating oligarchy” as they are chosen by the existing trustees. The trustees have to fulfil the following charitable objectives:
- To preserve, protect and improve, for the benefit of the public, the riverside and its environs at Twickenham in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, and such other areas as the Trustees may from time to time decide.
- To provide facilities there for public recreation and community activities.
- To advance the education of the public in the history and environment of the area.
It is not clear that the trust is meeting its first objective. At every stage the proposals have received public support. The report by New London Architecture, Local London. Building reliant neighbourhoods states, ”Twickenham Riverside will create a flourishing centre for the local area, where people can enjoy the beauty of the riverside.”
The economic and social case for the development is significant as shown by a report by Project:00, commissioned by the council. The land included in the plans for the trust to operate is with a new 125 year lease and is a greater area than they have now.
The development has also received funding towards the social housing element from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Slowing down or preventing the development of Twickenham Riverside would be seen as a false economy as it is unclear what the community would gain in addition to the benefits already mentioned above. If there is no further gain then why have the trust objected to the proposals?
So, finally it is left the Secretary of State, Michael Gove MP to approve the CPO and deliver for Twickenham a long overdue upgrade to the riverside rather than keeping it as a car park and “mausoleum” for the old swimming pool and it’s buildings.
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