Twickenham’s MP backs Riverside development ahead of public inquiry
By The Editor
25th May 2023 | Local News
Munira Wilson MP has written to the public inquiry into the £45 million redevelopment of Twickenham Riverside, which would create a new heart for the town.
She is backing the Council's bid for a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) for the Diamond Jubilee Gardens, which includes a play area and café, that will be needed for the scheme to go ahead.
The plan is create a new – larger – public space for children to play and gatherings closer to the riverside, which will see car parking removed and the creation of a new promenade.
However, a number of local community groups, including the Twickenham Riverside Trust, who are custodians of the Gardens, are fighting the scheme, along with residents and businesses on Eel Pie Island.
They argue the new public space is smaller than what they currently have and complain about a loss of trees. There are claims that the apartment buildings are overbearing.
The scheme was drawn up after a design competition won by Hopkins Architects and major public consultation exercise, which followed decades of wrangling over the future of the site.
Central to the scheme is the building of two new apartment blocks, including some affordable housing, shops, a pub and café, which is designed to create a new heart of the town centre.
Munira Wilson wrote that the scheme 'presents a unique opportunity to transform and revitalise the riverside for the benefit of our whole community, and for generations to come'.
The MP said: "The future of Twickenham Riverside has been in limbo for more than 40 years, and the Hopkins scheme – championed by local groups during the design competition and unanimously voted for at Planning Committee – provides the best opportunity to finally move forward.
"Our stretch of the river is one of the most beautiful along the Thames, and Twickenham residents have a huge affection for it. Yet, Twickenham Riverside feels disconnected and separate from the high street and the rest of our community. Like the hugely successful revitalisation of nearby Church Street, the Hopkins scheme provides an opportunity to regenerate the area and create a new heart right at the centre of our community.
"Specifically, the Hopkins design, which received positive feedback during several periods of engagement, delivers on many of the ambitions that local residents set out during the consultation period.
"Under the plans, the new riverside would be larger, greener, more open and more accessible. It would be better connected to both the river and the high street, and boast improved facilities – including new lawns and trees planted, alongside a new playground, café and shops. This would create a destination point and hive of activity on the riverside, as well as make it safer and more inviting for pedestrians."
She added: "Local businesses on the adjacent and picturesque Church Street are in support of the added footfall that the regeneration of this area would bring.
"Currently, the area is cut off from the town and dominated by parked cars, which act as a physical barrier between the existing open space and the river, and present health and safety risks for those wishing to cross from the existing gardens to the riverside.
"In comparison, the Hopkins scheme would include a pedestrianised events space for the public to enjoy, as well as boat houses opposite a pontoon. The open space, however, is just one part of the solution to this site and must be seen in the wider context of the whole scheme and the positive impacts that regeneration would bring."
The MP said: "In addition to the greatly improved public open spaces, the scheme would also provide much-needed affordable housing.
"Whilst we are lucky in enough to live in one of London's most affluent boroughs, the housing affordability and cost-of-living crisis we're seeing at the national level is felt keenly in our borough, too.
"From young people in their first jobs, to the nurses in our hospitals and the teachers in our schools – housing has become completely unaffordable to rent and unattainable to buy. The Hopkins scheme would include 50% affordable housing at a policy- compliant tenure mix.
"As a parent of two young children myself, I believe the transformation of Twickenham Riverside is a wonderful opportunity to make this precious space even more vibrant and family friendly – and create a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy. We must not waste this opportunity and let 40 more years go by."
The public inquiry is due to be held from June 9-26. It is purely looking at the merits of the Compulsory Purchase Order rather than the wider scheme.