After their spectacular victory in the Richmond Council elections on May 3, the Liberal Democrats want to breathe new life into Conservative plans for the Twickenham Riverside development
New leader of Richmond Council Gareth Roberts has honoured his pre-election promise to halt all development work on the Twickenham Riverside development.
The Lib Dem councillor wrote to Richmond Council chief executive Paul Martin on May 4 within minutes of his appointment, rebuking Conservative plans for the development.
Twickenham residents, who say they are tired of broken promises, hope Cllr Gareth Roberts will deliver a community-centric riverside development that rivals those of neighbouring Richmond and Kingston.
Brigitte Pickersgill, 62, a Twickenham resident for 37 years, said: “I have great faith in the Lib Dems – up until this election I voted conservative, but I’ve been so disgusted by their attitude and their lies and broken promises, that I became quite angry and frustrated about the whole thing.
“When I arrived in Twickenham the lido had just closed – I’ve seen the cinema close, I’ve seen the ice rink disappear, I’ve seen a lot of promises made by previous councils never come to fruition.
“I think we’ve got such a fantastic opportunity to bring the heart back into Twickenham – we need to bring Twickenham’s identity back and create a hub that’s going to bring the community together.”
Former Conservative leader of Richmond Council Paul Hodgins is concerned that after two years of consulting with local residents, the election result may slow the development’s progress, with more time and money being spent on it.
Mr Hodgins said: “It was a political play by the Lib Dems and they made very vague promises about what they were going to do.
“There will be more money spent, more interruption and more delay, which means the community will suffer more years of derelict property and not getting enjoyment from the riverside as they should.”
Local resident and Twitter campaigner @Twickerman said that the two years of consultation leading up to the planning application were disastrous, and also hopes the Lib Dems will put a stop to the proposals.
On the development’s potential, he said: “There’s an amazing space which could be wonderful in many different ways.
“I support the view of the Riverside Park Team and think there should be a large central square as the main feature, with lots of space for activity around it – cafes, restaurants, galleries, possibly a lido, and boat houses (not just for boats) to be used for bicycle-hire and crafty sorts of businesses, all of which will coax people to the riverside to spend their money, and that in turn will help out the other businesses in the town centre, which is gradually dying.”
Cllr Roberts, who believes that the development is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new heart for Twickenham, said that new plans for the space should be bold, rather than timid, and that bland designed-by-committee structures aren’t good enough.
He said: “First and foremost we want to take parking off the riverside, that came out loud and clear through different consultation conducted by the previous administration, which they ignored.
“We want this to be a development that people, not just in Twickenham, but across the borough can see as a destination and something they can be proud of.”
Image credit: Andrew Hall