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Wednesday 21st February
Memories of Twickenham Riverside


Twickenham Riverside - Its Future (?) and Its Past

It is now December 2016 and the community work I started in Twickenham in 2008 has come full circle. Initially I was the joint chair of the Richmond United Group which brought together residents/organisations who wanted help with various issues. What would happen to the two adjacent Twickenham Riverside sites is the longest running local issue - a very popular lido closed down and the area left derelict for many years. In 2009 I became very active in the campaign to save the Riverside from a housing development, writing articles published in the local and national press and eventually organising a referendum which won the day. Subsequently, Diamond Jubilee Gardens was built on the Council owned part of Twickenham Riverside.

In 2011 I formed Twickenham Alive with Berkley Driscoll with the aim to recreate what Twickenham had lost. We have been involved in setting up a number of local events: recreating a historic Regatta for Boys and Girls, founding a Stand Up Paddleboarding club, an annual Twickenham Film Festival and Richmond [festive] Ice Rink. For a number of years years we organised the Music and Fun Day at Strawberry Hill House and lately we have started The Twickenham Times, a local newspaper. We have also found time to complete two successful Heritage Lottery Projects: Memories of Twickenham Riverside and The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World.

Following the 2009 campaign to save Twickenham Riverside I continued to take an interest in the area. Once Berkley and I knew about a competition for land adjacent to Diamond Jubilee Gardens we lobbied to take part. As it was a competition for architects we brought in Atkins and liaised with their architects to prepare a plan for the remainder of the riverside site.

To some extent our work on the history of Twickenham Riverside was a factor in how we looked at the area. The idea of bringing back a lido was brought up by many local people, not only during our work for the competition but during our work on Heritage Lottery projects; the old lido was one of three losses to Twickenham: the lido, the cinema and the ice rink.

I will not go into details about what has become known as the "lido project" except to say that we believe that it could help regenerate Twickenham and would only take up a quarter of the site now available. Anyone interested in more information on this can look at the Twickenham Lido website and the petition which has over 3,000 supporters and thousands of well thought out comments by local people.

Over the years Twickenham Alive has put forward a number of plans which have needed Council approval - three options for a market in Twickenham, an open-air cinema on Diamond Jubilee Gardens and more recently the ice rink in Radnor Gardens. Unfortunately these particular projects were turned down by a very senior councillor although the market and the Radnor Gardens ice rink were supported by very senior Council officers - and our written proposal for an open-air cinema was used by the Council.

Often one wonders how decisions are made and last year I had a glimpse of this when I was passed an email which had been sent to the private emails of thirty-seven councillors by a very senior member of the Cabinet of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames:

"During their 2006-2010 administration the LibDems came forward with a plan to turn the Riverside into luxury housing and build a so-called River Centre. This would have effectively denied public access to the Riverside. There was huge opposition from many Twickenham groups and a very effective campaign in which, ironically, Teresa Read, whose commitment to Twickenham no-one doubts, was an active player.

..... The Lido that is proposed by Teresa would effectively close off a section of the Riverside to the public and also block much of the river view."

The email went on for some length but one really questions decision-making when one person who has so much influence over the majority of councillors, elected by residents to represent them, behaves in this way - especially if information distributed is "economical with the actualité". Of course the true irony of this is that the present administration, and the Cabinet Member who wrote the email, plans to build a block of flats on this beautiful spot on Twickenham Riverside, blocking the view of the river - with the millions produced from the sale of Francis Terry flats no doubt leaving Twickenham, a town very much in need of regeneration.

I do hope that the councillors from Richmond, and their party supporters, do not get their way on Twickenham Riverside. Over the years so many people have given much of their lives to preserve this spot and it would be doing them, and Twickenham Riverside, a great disservice to cover this site with housing now.

2009 Twickenham 2013 Twickenham Riverside 2015 Twickenham Lido


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