Unanimous! Twickenham Riverside redevelopment gets go-ahead
By The Editor
24th Nov 2022 | Local News
Plans to redevelop Twickenham Riverside - creating a new heart for the town - have been approved in a move that promises to end 40 years of indecision.
Councillors on the Planning Committee unanimously approved the £40m scheme despite fierce opposition at a public meeting tonight – Thursday.
The scheme was opposed by a number of community groups, led by the Twickenham Riverside Trust. It operates the Diamond Jubilee Gardens, which will have to be moved as part of the scheme.
Council leader Gareth Roberts welcomed the news and called for all sides of the community to get behind the scheme,
He said: "I am delighted to report that this evening the Council Planning Committee has tonight given a unanimous verdict in favour of our exciting plans for Twickenham Riverside.
"This is a real step forward for this scheme which will revitalise this long-neglected part of Twickenham.
"I hope this now provides an opportunity for all sides to come together to deliver this scheme, on behalf of the people of Twickenham, and above all get Twickenham Riverside done."
A webcast of the planning meeting failed leaving residents frustrated and in the dark about what local councillors thought about the scheme, with many taking to social media to complain.
It is understood that this recording of the event will be put up on its website at some point.
The £40m scheme creates a new riverside public square for Twickenham, opening up access from the town centre.
It would remove the car park from the riverside, limit road access, while opening up the area and creating a new promenade. However, this will make life difficult for the residents and businesses based on Eel Pie Island.
There will be a new playground, public open space, which could host events, as well as two new apartment blocks with 45 apartments, shops, a pub and café.
The scheme would involve moving the Diamond Jubilee Gardens and playground to a new – larger – area on the site. A number of trees would be felled or moved, however there will be new lawns and more trees planted.
The plan has a contentious history with opposing views receiving loud support in a heated battle that has come to a head over the last two weeks.
Opponents, led by the Twickenham Riverside Trust, have accused the Council of a 'land grab' and claim a historic open space will be 'bulldozed for luxury flats'.
Trust chairman, Ted Cremin, told the councillors he was particularly critical of the new Wharf Lane apartment building.
He said: "Just eight years ago right here the council granted the Diamond Jubilee gardens to the public on a 125-year lease. now this council wants to bulldoze it destroying 23 established trees to erect a five story 21m tall Wharf Lane building just 10 metres from the river's edge.
He said a desire to remove parking from the riverside, "must not be used as an excuse to build a 21 metre white elephant on our riverside. Now is the time to pivot to a lower cost, lower impact more sustainable plan that privileges public open space over buildings."
Mr Cremin said: "Last week a petition was launched to save the gardens from the Wharf Lane building in just seven days over two and a half thousand people have signed 9 times more than supported the council's plans on the portal over the last 12 months.'
He argued that the Lib-Dems who run the Council were wrong to claim their victory in the May local elections gave the scheme an electoral mandate.
Mr Cremin ended by saying the desire to get something done on the riverside 'is not a reason to get it wrong'.
The Trust stressed it had no objection to the removal of car parking from the riverside.
However, several former members of the Trust spoke in favour of the scheme, while two local architects and a civil engineer praised the potential transformation of the riverside.
Sam Kamleh, who left the Trust earlier this year, said: "I am certain that time will show the current proposals are the right solution for Twickenham riverside."
She said the bulk of the objections seemed to be based on misinformation or a misunderstanding of the scheme.
Ms Kamleh said the buildings are not too tall when compared to others in the area and she gave the example of the Richmond riverside as evidence of a successful redevelopment.
She welcomed the inclusion of housing in the scheme, saying it would be 'unforgivable' not to offer homes as part of the development.
Deon Lombard, an architect and urban designer, told the committee it would create 'a new public realm of outstanding quality; a large beautifully landscaped public space; a garden comprised of lawned terraces and trees; a larger children's play area, family café and a public events area providing for any number of uses, such as markets, fairs and shows on the riverside'.
Before the scheme can go ahead, the Council will need to successfully complete a Compulsory Purchase Order for the Diamond Jubilee Gardens. There will be a public inquiry to decide this, which is due next summer.