As the council release a detail-lite version of the Twickenham Riverside design (https://www.richmond.gov.uk/myrichmond/twickenham_redevelopment/twickenham_redevelopment_background) and social media is once again ablaze with indignation, and quite a bit of support, we consider some of the main points aroused by the design – and the response so far – ahead of the promised November consultation. We are among the stakeholders that comprise the Local Stakeholder Reference Group (LSRG) with semi-regular meetings with the council to discuss aspects of the scheme.
The current scheme is different from the competition-winning entry
It was always going to be different as the prize-winning entry was, typically for architectural competitions where firms work up broad ideas on a limited budget, not much more than a sketch. Along with expected levels of alteration, major changes have been required by the Environment Agency (EA) to avert flooding. This has resulted in buildings being moved back from the Embankment and given rise, in every sense, to the ‘podium’. That’s why the Wharf Lane building (at the south-west corner and envisaged as a restaurant with outdoor tables) is raised 2.4 meters above the Embankment. It seems the EA have spoken and the design has to bend to their demands.
Traffic and parking
The design has a motor-traffic-free Embankment tempered by loading bays for deliveries (mainly for Eel Pie Island) at the foot of Water Lane and possibly elsewhere. We accept some loading is inevitable. We have proposed that the council encourage cycle deliveries where possible to reduce the level of motor traffic. We’ve no evidence that this is being considered. We’ve asked the council to ensure there are time restrictions on loading. The council have not responded.
Concerns have been raised by some stakeholder groups over the turning space required by articulated lorries. Not many people have ever seen an articulated lorry at the riverside and if they do exist, it may be for the convenience of delivery firms rather than necessity. Nonetheless, some stakeholders suggest that this is a reason for retaining the gyratory system (i.e. motor traffic using the Embankment) rather vacuously citing concerns for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists having previously supported the retention of pedestrian- and cyclist-unfriendly traffic and parking on the Embankment.
We’ve told the council we would like to be involved in parking and traffic discussions that take place outside of LSRG meetings. No reply has been received.
Though not shown on the current plan, the council have alluded to possible segregated cycling on a two-way Water Lane. In a Zoom meeting, the architect stated that cycling is envisioned on the Embankment and that Wharf Lane will be a cycle route. We have had no indication of how these routes will link to King Street or the riverside route towards Richmond. The situation at the top of Water Lane, where it meets King Street and Church Street, is being ‘looked at’.
We have stressed several times to the council that cycle routes need to be considered at an early stage if they are to be successful. We’ve cited London Cycling Design Standards and referenced Wheels For Well Being so that the needs of disabled cyclists might be taken into account. Noting the council has held meetings with specific stakeholders on their specific areas of concern, we’ve told the council that we are available for such meetings to discuss cycling issues. No reply has been received.
Buildings and the overall design
As a cycling campaign we focus on cycling and cycling-related issues rather than the overall design. But we do have lots of members, architects and planners among them, with their own views on many things.
Openness and transparency
Amid allegations of secrecy, the council stress that this riverside plan is the most open and transparent of all that have existed. They may be right but the behind-closed-doors scheming of the previous administration set a very low bar. And we are more than disappointed when councillors respond eagerly to public posts on Twitter but don’t respond to our emails.