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Letter sent to all Richmond Borough councillors today (21 September 2017).


The Redevelopment of the Twickenham Riverside Site

This letter is an appeal to individual Councillors to press for a fundamental reappraisal to be undertaken before any more public money is committed to developing the project as currently conceived.

We trust that you share our appreciation of what is widely regarded as a unique site and our concern that opportunities for its enhancement are not lost through lack of care.

It has been three years since Lord True set out his ‘vision’ of a new centre for the town, opening up the river, attracting visitors, increasing foot-fall, and creating ‘a lasting legacy for generations to come’. These commendable aims are sadly not reflected in either the original or the revised Francis Terry schemes.

Despite the concerted efforts of Councillors and staff, the proposals have attracted scant support from the general public and, when a Scrutiny Panel was eventually convened, doubts were expressed about the potential
viability. We understand that the architect has now been asked to prepare a fourth set of proposals which will, presumably, be the subject of a further round of consultation. As the underlying issues have not been addressed, it is unlikely that merely continuing to repeat the same course of action will produce a better outcome.

We believe that the only credible and logical position is to revise the process. This should not be seen as a retrograde step – the time spent in exploring options, consultation, public debate and discussions with specific interest groups, all contribute to a better understanding of what is involved. The information gathered could help the Council draw up a well-researched and tested brief – a crucial document for a development of this type. It was the failure to produce such a brief that has led to the situation where the architect continues to produce different ‘concept designs’ none of which fulfil the original objectives nor meet the public expectations expressed so clearly in the ‘Barefoot Consultation’.

A brief needs to establish the basis for the development: setting out what it aims to achieve and the spaces and facilities to be provided, defining the extent of development, the balance between commercial and
residential, private and public open access and community use. Mandatory requirements need to be established. These are likely to include the provision of a town square, opened vistas to the river, significant
space for public benefit, and the removal of riverside parking (while making reasonable provision for Eel Pie Island). A financial and business plan should provide total clarity about future ownership, an analysis of capital costs and how they are to be met, and realistic revenue targets (including how the as yet unspecified ‘community use’ will be funded).

We are convinced that extending the scope of the project to include the
Diamond Jubilee Gardens and to take account of the change of ownership of the rest of the block of King Street properties could well prove beneficial, both environmentally and financially (a view expressed at public

When the Council spent in excess of £6.5m to extend the site, Lord True promised to hold a competition to ‘select the best architects in the country’. Instead a ‘behind closed doors’ process was used to offer the job to
Quinlan Terry before subsequently transferring the appointment to his son, despite the fact that, as a newlyformed ‘single-architect’ practice, Francis Terry Associates did not meet the criteria for selection as originally

The work already done can be justified as contributing to the ‘testing’ and ‘exploratory’ process required to inform the brief, if the Council builds on what has been learnt.

Nevertheless, we believe that a new team is needed to take the project forward. We are asking you to take a brave step and press for an architectural competition, run in accordance with government recommendations.

These require an open invitation followed by a carefully defined set of procedures. The aim would be to select a team with the wide-ranging expertise needed for a mixed-use town centre project and the imagination to produce a solution which would attract genuine support. The alternative, as we see it, is for the Council to continue spending money to push a flawed proposal through planning - and then on through a series of appeals at a time when elections are looming.

There is still time to turn this project around and put a positive gloss on the work done to date. Please give due consideration to our appeal. Twickenham needs a better solution for this site than that currently on offer.


If you share these aims, please write to your councillors. Details here

21 September 2017


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After a series of open consultations, the Council set out its plans for a ‘new heart for Twickenham’ to provide the key elements that residents had asked for: a Town Square, more open views to the river, a community hub and alternative provision for parking (underground or at the rear of the site) which currently lines the river frontage.

It was accepted that some residential and commercial development would help finance the project. £6.8 million was spent in buying three shops in King Street and adjacent land in Water Lane to add to the site of the former Twickenham Lido which was already in public ownership. A competition was to be held to ‘find the UK’s best architects’ to design the scheme.

It did not happen. The brief did not reflect previous consultation exercises. A few architects, selected for their ‘traditional’ approach rather than on the relevance of their skills and expertise, were invited to submit drawings and were interviewed by a panel comprising Lord True,  the LBRuT Leader,  Cllr. Pamela Fleming,  Councillor and 3 officers.  No report was produced.  Quinlan Terry’s practice was selected behind closed doors but the appointment was subsequently transferred to a new and untried practice set up by his son Francis.

…..and what the Council is now proposing

After two years and a significant input of officers' time and tax payers' money, the solution being pushed towards planning consent is for two large blocks covering much of the site, housing up to 50 ‘luxury’ flats, with retail and business premises (plus some unspecified community provision) at ground floor level.

The block in King Street, on the corner of Church Street and its surrounding conservation area, is currently four storeys and could go higher.  This block continues at this height for much of the length of Water Lane. The second block, separated by a service road, fronts the river. It is nominally reduced to three storeys but is raised on a plinth in order to accommodate ‘underground’ parking, increasing the height by 3 metres – equivalent to a fourth floor. The parking is reserved for the occupants of the proposed development which means that other residents and visitors will continue to line the river frontage with cars.

There is no Town Square, no improvement in visibility or access from King Street to the river, no ‘community hub’ or space specifically designed for river related activities and no recognition of the history of this stretch of 'Arcadia'. The development contravenes all the promises which Lord True made prior to the 2010 and 2014 elections and offers no discernible economic or environmental benefits for the town.

Francis Terry’s first scheme was rejected as soon as it was published when over 1,000 residents signed a letter asking the Council to terminate his appointment.  His current design replaces the ‘Regency’ style exterior of the original with something more Dickensian but the underlying block structure is still the same - merely disguised by another version of what Terry himself  describes as ‘wrappings of net-lettable space’ (Architects’ Journal  2015).

How did it go so wrong?

It is our view that:

With no feasibility study, business plan or clarity about how the project would be funded, the Council did not have sufficient information on which to base a brief or to commission design-based solutions.

Throughout the whole process, regulations have been contravened and Government  ‘good practice’ requirements  have been ignored. The behind closed doors appointment of Quinlan Terry’s practice and the subsequent transfer of the contract to that of his inexperienced son Francis is just one example.

With no feasibility study, business plan or clarity about how the project would be funded, the Council did not have sufficient information on which to base a brief or to commission design-based solutions.

The refusal to consider the whole site, including Diamond Jubilee Gardens, has led to a scheme in which the river-frontage is dominated by parking and stops more acceptable solutions being explored.

The extended and costly ‘Consultation’ process focused on detail, with no real choices and no option of saying ‘none of the above’. This, together with the lack of opportunities afforded to the full Council and its Committees to scrutinise the process, has meant that assumptions have not been tested,  flaws have not been addressed nor potential risks identified. Uses are still undetermined and the potential viability is still open to question.

Is there any alternative?

Various suggestions have been made throughout the consultation process and a number of proposals drawn up which certainly merit further consideration.  The approach illustrated in the gallery above this article demonstrates just one way of fulfilling the original objectives. 

What the Council needs to do

Stop and take stock before spending more time and money on detailed work to take the current proposals to a Planning Application, which will inevitably attract strong opposition.  The Twickenham Tribune has covered the costs in more detail here:

Terminate the appointment of Francis Terry Associates. The practice has been paid for the work already carried out.

Develop a proper brief, drawing on the positive ideas which were put forward but ignored during consultation and seek endorsement from the general public and various interest groups.

Promote an open competition in accordance with EU and Government guidelines to select a well-qualified team with the experience, skills, and imagination to respond to this brief.

Be ambitious for Twickenham and do not accept mediocrity.  This is a one-time only opportunity to create a new centre which will make a positive contribution to the town and its future development.

How you can help us

The Council will consult once more in October and aims to submit a planning application for approval at the end of 2017.

The local community needs to make its views known not only at the consultation but by writing to local councillors. Send us your thoughts and we can compile views of the community and make sure they reach the right people.

We've only got one opportunity to get this right. Let's seize it.

Sign our petition to support our aims and to receive updates.

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There are currently 59 parking spaces on The Embankment, and 14 on Water Lane. A total of 73.



The Environmental Impact Assessment suggests that an additional 55 parking spaces will be provided in an 'under-podium' space. This would be a 75 per cent increase in parking on and near the riverside.


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Twickenham is fortunate to have very good transport links, with the station located several minutes from this site, and at least six bus routes at the top of the street. We would argue that any residential provision on this location should preclude parking, like the new station development, where 115 flats will be built with no parking.

The riverside parking could then be located in the 'under-podium' spaces, and would equal the current number simply by adding a handful to the current proposed spaces. By doing this, it would be possible to create a town square and a park leading down to the river, where the parking is currently located.

See article on Page 3:


We are an independent group of residents who appeal to Richmond Council to stop forcing through a development which threatens to destroy the quality of a unique site: the river front in the centre of Twickenham directly opposite Eel Pie Island with its historic wharfs and working boatyards.  

Join us to let the Council know that their current plans are unacceptable and that a better solution will be found only if they are willing to revise their approach.