Coalition letter – Diamond Jubilee Gardens, 26 February 2021

To the Editor, Twickenham & Richmond Tribune

Published 26 February 2021

Richmond Council’s Plans for Twickenham Riverside

For a very long time the public have called for regeneration of Twickenham’s town centre and redevelopment of the site along our very special riverside.  This was formally recognised by Richmond Council in the Area Action Plan a long time ago too.  Over seven years ago. 

In fact, plans for developing this site have been around for decades and a lot of what people are calling for now is not fundamentally new.  But you have to look closely to see if what the Council have offered is all that it seems and if what the Council want is actually what you want.

The Diamond Jubilee Gardens and new open spaces along the riverside

Last week it was surprising to read Dion Lombard’s letter with a whole-hearted welcome to the Council’s plans for green open space along the river frontage and the Diamond Jubilee Gardens on The Embankment.  He asserted that that these are what the majority of Twickenham residents wanted.  In reality these plans need to be viewed critically because there are many problems, very serious problems that have not yet been addressed at all.

There will of course be pathways for adults, children and the elderly to walk across the new gardens and terraces.  Look carefully and you will see that these pathways are shared with cyclists using the new riverside site as a through-route between the cross roads in the town centre and Marble Hill. 

The Council stated there is a children’s play area in the Diamond Jubilee Gardens now and there will be a similar one on the new site, but in fact you can see there are at least three play areas in the gardens.  So where is the improvement they claim as a benefit for users of the new open spaces? 

The plans also show a five-storey block of mainly offices and flats built on part of the Diamond Jubilee Gardens, a building that is completely out of place and will cast long shadows across the new gardens and play area. 

Another part of the public open space would be tiered seating and steps, inaccessible to many. 

Are these really what the majority of Twickenham residents want?   You decide.

The Twickenham Coalition

To set the record straight, people who object to Richmond Council’s proposals are not as described in last week’s letter – spreaders of misinformation and (quote) supporters of the ghastly effort by the previous administration in 2018. 

The Twickenham Coalition is a growing number of residents and community groups coming together because we want the best for Twickenham.  We do have very strong reservations about many important aspects of the Council’s proposals, of which the above are just a few examples.

These proposals do not fulfil important requirements in Richmond Council’s design brief and many aspects were missing or factually wrong.   For example, the design of the building in Water Lane is really four storeys, not three as we were told in the Zoom online presentation. 

The Council have rushed into publishing these proposals and concluding a consultation, but they have got so much of it wrong.  There are certain positive aspects to the designs but we are hugely disappointed to find that there are numerous critical, unresolved issues this time round, far too many to be able to give Richmond Council an unconditional go-ahead.

Now is the last chance for the Council to pause, prepare plans that will deliver what they said they will deliver and put them on the table for public scrutiny. Plans for developing this site have been around for years so there are few excuses for getting it wrong again this time. Richmond Council need to get it right and deliver what they promised, all of it, and preserve the goodwill of the people of Twickenham.

It has taken over seven years to get to where we are now.  It is worth taking a short while longer and ensure we get what the people of Twickenham will be proud of for generations to come.

Yours sincerely

The Twickenham Coalition – ‘Love our town’