Battle lines drawn as long running row over future of Twickenham Riverside reaches final stage

By The Editor

23rd Nov 2022 | Local News

Artistic impression of Riverside redevelopment.
Artistic impression of Riverside redevelopment.

Warring sides over the future of the development of Twickenham Riverside have gone on the attack.

Opponents, led by the Twickenham Riverside Trust, have accused the Council of a 'land grab' and claim an historic open space is to be 'bulldozed for luxury flats'.

Twickenham Riverside Trust has launched a petition.

However, residents and councillors supporting the scheme say the Trust is being 'irresponsible', misrepresenting the scheme and 'shamelessly' misleading the public

The scheme is being promoted by the Lib-Dems, who made the redevelopment a major plank of their manifesto at the May local elections where they won a virtual clean-sweep of the Council.

And the Council leader, Gareth Roberts, has welcomed a recent flurry or support in response to the opposition from the Trust.

The Conservatives who opposed the redevelopment – and continue to do so – were left with just one councillor in the borough.

Credit: Twickenham Riverside Trust.

A special Council planning committee meeting is due to be held tomorrow – Thursday – evening to decide on the plan.

The £35m-£40m scheme would effectively create 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.

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.

Artistic impression of Riverside redevelopment.

The scheme would involve moving the existing 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 site has been at the centre of dispute for over 40 years with successive Council administrations unable win approval for any scheme. A number of groups have long advocated taking the site back to its roots with the return of a Lido pool that once stood on the land.

Artistic impression of Riverside redevelopment.

The Trust accepts redevelopment of the riverside is necessary. However, it argues the design of the buildings is unacceptable and complains the new public open space and playground is inferior to what there is at the moment. It is opposing a Council Compulsory Purchase Order for the gardens.

It has put leaflets opposing the scheme through hundreds of doors and launched an online petition opposing the entire scheme, which has attracted 2,300 signatures.

The imagery focuses on a picture of one of the department blocks on Wharf Lane, which the Trust argues 'will drastically alter the skyline'.

The Trust chairman, Ted Cremin, told Nub News: "The Trust supports the principle of regeneration on Twickenham Riverside, and given all the derelict areas alongside the Diamond Jubilee Gardens are on Council owned and run land there is nothing stopping this from happening at any time.

"Our concerns specifically relate to the plans to build on the Gardens, where the proposed Wharf Lane building will drastically alter the skyline and reduce the open space offering on the riverfront forever. It will be greater in height and mass than any other building on the High Street and brings almost no amenity value to the public.

"Removing an existing large and well used playground in exchange for a smaller one squashed against the road that lorries will be reversing into, culling 66 mature trees and offering an event space in a flood zone is not good enough for the residents of Twickenham. We all deserve better."

The Lib-Dem Council insists the May local elections provided a democratic mandate. At the same time, the Council's professional planning officers, who have assessed the objections, have recommended approval, saying while there are some 'shortcomings' it offers 'clear benefits'.

Councillor James Chard, who represents Twickenham Riverside, said critics are 'shamelessly' misrepresenting the scheme.

He added: "Residents won't fall for misleading claims by those who have blocked progress for years."

He described critics as the 'usual suspects', who are 'trying to add to decades of dither and delay'.

Supporters have countered the Trust's criticism by publishing their own images, which they argue gives a more accurate representation.

Artistic impression of Riverside redevelopment.

Writing on social media, one resident described the Trust's depiction of the scheme as 'so misleading'. He said: "The new scheme has adequate open space (as per the brief) and there is a new and better kids playground in the plan."

Another said the Trust's use of images and description of the scheme was 'irresponsible'. She added: "I don't think the Trust should resort to misleading people in order to get their support."

A local architect wrote: "It's exciting to think that within 4 or 5 years we could have a wonderful riverside in Twickenham.

"A tiered events space for concerts, market stalls and gatherings; a suitable cafe and a riverside restaurant or bar and a playground and grassed areas for picnics."

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