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Twickenham Alive’s Involvement in the Competition for the new Twickenham Riverside site

In the summer of 2014 Twickenham Alive was considering applying for a grant to renovate the slipway next to the Eel Pie bridge. Initial plans were drawn up which we discussed with the Council. We were informed that the area was going to be redeveloped and the slipway could not be considered in isolation.

As a result of this discussion we were told that we would be given details of the competition brief when it was available so we could take part. We wrote to the Council regularly asking about the brief and then towards the end of January 2015 we were told it was too late as signature architects had been invited to enter the competition.

At the end of 2014 we had started discussing possible plans. One of our initial interests was reinstating the Charlie Shore boathouses for use by sports clubs including Epic SUP.

We spoke to the Council and on 13 February we were told that our team could enter the competition although we understood that other competitors had already started work. On 4 December it had been decided that Twickenham Alive would be the Stakeholder Lead; our brief was to consult with interested parties within Twickenham to find out what they would like to see on the new site.

We started work immediately, initially speaking to Bruce Lyons (Church Street Association and Twickenham Town Business Association) as Church Street is so near to the site. Overall we spoke to around thirty people, some representing various groups in Twickenham. Once the idea of the lido in Bristol came up we made trips to Clifton and spoke to regular users. We also visited the Reading lido which is in the process of renovation.

During our talks with people the suggestion of a swimming pool came up time and time again. When we asked what they would like to see on the site we were told “a swimming pool, that is what used to be on the site!”

Initially we dismissed the idea of a swimming pool as we did not think there would be enough space but after a meeting on 15 February with members of a group which mentioned a swimming pool yet again we suddenly had a Eureka moment when we realised that the Bristol Lido in Clifton would fit neatly into the site leaving plenty of space for other requirements in the Council’s brief. The lido complex ticked quite a few of the boxes: commercial activity, restaurants, alfresco/cafĂ© dining activity, toilets, room to hire, connection to existing open space and access to Diamond Jubilee Gardens. Rather than just providing more shops and restaurants we saw the opportunity to bring back the Twickenham lido using the “courtyard” style lido which we first saw in Bristol. The inclusion of boathouses on the site gained interest from Epic SUP and Twickenham Rowing Club and Michelle Whitby was also interested in a boathouse for her Music of Eel Pie Island Museum.

The lido was probably a little more imaginative than the Council’s brief but unlike those who prepared it we were steeped in the history of the area as we had directed the HLF project Memories of Twickenham Riverside and also been involved in events on the Riverside since 2011 (see the videos on the Twickenham Alive website). I had also organised the Twickenham Riverside Referendum which secured the old pool site for community use.

At a meeting at Euston Tower on 25 February the lido idea was overwhelmingly accepted by the entire team as our only plan to put forward to the Council. So, on 27 February Twickenham Alive went to Clifton to meet a director of the lido and start initial discussions which eventually led to the company offering to build, fund and run the Twickenham Lido using the successful business model of the Bristol Lido.

At this point it is interesting to note that four of the team are Twickenham residents and the Project Director had once worked at Twickenham Baths. So, along with consultation with members of the Twickenham community this was definitely a project which was Twickenham driven.

Plans took shape during March with a brain storming meeting at Euston Tower on 13 March with Davide, an Italian architect, amazing us all by interpreting our ideas on screen within what seemed like seconds!

On 27 March Twickenham Alive was invited to a meeting, at executive level, by a bank interested in the competition and plans for the Twickenham Riverside. Following the meeting a letter was received on 5 May. It stated that the bank was very impressed with our plans for Twickenham Riverside and for regenerating Twickenham and would be interested in helping to fund the retail/residential element (in the Council’s brief) partnering with the project team and the Council; they have experience in funding this sort of development and have the expertise to deliver on a construction/redevelopment project.

The final plan was sent to the Council at the beginning of April, just before Easter. Although we believe our plan was in the last three submissions we heard on 8th May that we had not been selected for interviews which were taking place during the following ten days or so. However, we have since heard that Quinlan Terry who designed Richmond Riverside might be in the final two but this is only a rumour.

We sincerely hope that whatever is built on the new Twickenham Riverside site is right for Twickenham and takes into account the history of Twickenham Riverside complementing what exists in the area. Twickenham is a working riverside and it used to be a social hub, a place where the community met and took part in sport and leisure activities; there was a lido and boathouses, an active and vibrant area which many would like to see again.

And finally, in the newspaper article which appeared in the Richmond and Twickenham Times on 29 May 2015 Bruce Lyons the Twickenham Town Business Association chairman who has seen the plans said he thought that the proposal looked “pretty well thought out”.

Andy Sutch, chairman of Sport Richmond, was reported as saying that the Twickenham Alive proposals appeared to be "very attractive". He added: "Certainly in terms of what it would provide in recreation terms, it would be good - we know the borough is short of water facilities." During the Twickenham Alive consultation Andy said that the scheme brought an outdoor pool back to Twickenham with an emphasis on fitness, health and well-being which would be welcome.