Impassioned campaigners from the Twickenham Riverside Park Team have proposed an alternative vision for the Twickenham Riverside development, which they believe encapsulates what residents really want.
The plans were drawn up by architect and 18-year Twickenham resident Deon Lombard, who claims the development became a bone in a political dog fight where community values were overshadowed by political agendas.
After the Liberal Democrats won control of Richmond Council from the Conservatives on May 4, new council leader Gareth Roberts honoured his pre-election promise to halt all development work.
Now the Twickenham Riverside Park Team has created a new concept design, which prioritises a town square and a car-free pedestrianised riverfront, as well as affordable housing, boat houses, a performance area, museum, hotels, restaurants and a lido.
Deon, who says he has been to every consultation and workshop on the development bar one, and gave up half a year’s salary to work on the project, said: “I’ve been absolutely heartened by the reaction from so many people in Twickenham who have responded so passionately to the project.
“I do honestly believe that our concept design represents a majority opinion at this point.”
Former Conservative leader Paul Hodgins was concerned the reversal of plans after two years of consulting with residents would slow the development’s progress and increase its cost.
Deon, part of the Twickenham Riverside Park Team alongside residents John Milner, Judith Strong, Ben Makins, Cathy Thompson and Deon, claims to have drawn about 50 diagrams of the development before creating the final concept design.
He has spoken to Lib Dem Twickenham MP Vince Cable and the council leader about the development’s progress.
Deon said: “The future of the development is entirely up to whether the new Lib Dem administration have got the guts and the vision to deliver what residents want.
“The point we made to the Lib Dems before they got into power was that the best thing they could do if they won the election was to take the development out of the political domain and hand it over to independent developers and architects.
“One of the big problems in the past was that the council wanted to do everything themselves.”
The Twickenham Riverside Park Team’s e-petition on change.org has so far amassed more than 2,500 signatures.
Mr Makins, also a member of the Twickenham Riverside Park Team, said he always took the view that the campaign’s main aim was not to have a particular vision, but to spark people’s imagination and to demonstrate what was possible.
He said: “I don’t want to impose my solution on it, I want to give people an idea of what is possible, and that’s the kind of process that the council didn’t really go through and neglected.
“The council didn’t take on board people’s imagination about what could be, and imposed a rather bland set of planning solutions on the riverside didn’t take into account people’s experience of landscape and the place in which they live.
“I see Deon’s plans as one solution of which there are many – what we need to do now is find a way of coming to a view about what would be suitable and that’s not an easy process, but it’s about engagement with people’s imaginations and ideas.”