Plans to transform Twickenham Riverside have been approved by councillors but are set to be called-in due to a flood risk.

Richmond Council's planning committee approved the council's own controversial plans by five votes to three last night (March 7).

The development on the site of a former swimming pool includes 39 apartments, space for shops, seasonal units and parking.

Councillors who voted it through had reservations and “regrets” about affordable housing, parking, and some had issues with the design.

The council will only be offering 15 per cent affordable housing (six flats) due to overspend on the project- although Lib Dem opposition leader Cllr Gareth Roberts pointed out the council’s “own policy” states there should be 50 per cent- due to overspend on the project.

Parking by the river remains a contentious issue, but as the spaces on the embankment are not part of the development, deputy leader Cllr Pamela Fleming has admitted “it was a clear issue for people” and promised a “review” of existing arrangements.

See related: 

Twickenham Riverside development goes to council today

Twickenham Riverside proposals unveiled

Twickenham Riverside autumn consultation results published

The Environmental Agency, which will call-in the application, has objected to it on the grounds of flood risk- the defence walls must be about two metres high with a 16 metre set back to meet regulation.

Your Local Guardian:

It stated the development “will be refused” the way it is and will require a Flood Risk Activity Permit.

Your Local Guardian: Proposed new flood defence wall 

Speakers objecting to the application said the development was a “wasted opportunity” that “failed to deliver on a riverside park”.

James Heath of the Richmond Cycling Campaign took issue with the “congestion” and “pollution” that comes with the “dominance of cars” over pedestrians, while consultant Judith Strong said the development offered “no community benefits” and would not attract visitors.

John Milner, of the Twickenham Riverside Park Team, which has suggested an underground carpark instead of spaces by the river, said the scheme would do “irreversible harm” to the area and pointed out that 66 per cent of respondents opposed more parking.  

Your Local Guardian: The meeting at Clarendon Hall

Those in favour of the application said it was a “workable solution” and the “product of a long consultation”, while 75 per cent public space was on offer- double the original proposal.

Along with this, the Brownfield site has been designated for development, which some feel is better in the hands of the council rather than TfL to keep scale down.

Dr Susan Burningham, of the Riverside Action Group (RAG), said “we all care very deeply” about the area and the “site has been derelict for nearly 40 years”.

She commended the connectivity of the design with a public space that “flows beautifully”.

Cllr Thomas O’Malley, who voted for the development, said he had concerns about and flooding and the “low level of affordable housing” but that he said he was “very happy” the design.

Cllr Martin Elengorn, who opposed the application, said he was “not as excited” as Cllr O’Malley, and described the development as “unexciting and dull”. He said: “It’s going to loom as you pass it”.

Reactions to the result

RAG formed two years ago in response to the proposals, which they mostly opposed at the time.

Member Celia Holman said: “We've been lobbying for two years to secure additional public open space on Twickenham Riverside. 

“75 per cent of the pool site and the ‘Santander’ site will now be open space.

“This marks a significant investment in the amenity of the riverside and by extension the town of Twickenham.

“You only have to look up and down the river to appreciate that, for a riverside brownfield site in London, this provision of public open space must surely be unique.”

She added they are confident the concerns from the Environmental Agency can be resolved and “Twickenham can get the rejuvenation it deserves”.

RAG member and architect Henry Harrison commented on the “remarkable” engagement from the community and said he was “absolutely thrilled” with the result that was “500 years in the making”.

Dr Burningham said she was “delighted” but there was “still a lot of hard work to do”.

The TRP team said they were “surprised” with the result, specifically due to the flood risk from the proposed design.

A spokesman said: “We were surprised that the planning committee ignored the Environment Agency’s advice about changes required to manage flood risk.

“Now that the EA have called-in the application the council cannot proceed.

“We hope the Secretary of State will take a more informed view and refuse the scheme or request its redesign to include two metre high flood wall along the Embankment elevation.”

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Gareth Roberts, said: “There was a degree of grim inevitability about this result.

“It was bizarre, however, that in spite of Conservative councillors voicing concerns about the poor design, the risk of flooding, the severe criticism of the Environment Agency, the impact on parking and the fact that the development threw the council's own policies on affordable housing under the bus they still voted it through. 

“Had this been a proposal from a private developer they would have turned it down flat.”

Cllr Fleming said she was “delighted” the development was approved and “would like to thank all those who have contributed”.

She added: “I hope that the National Planning Casework Unit will review the proposals as soon as possible so we can all move forward and create a development that we can all be proud of.”