Richmond Council has been given powers to acquire gardens from a trust, as part of plans to transform a town centre with 45 new homes, shops, open space and a pub.
Twickenham Riverside Trust was given a 125-year lease on Diamond Jubilee Gardens in 2014 and opposed Richmond Council’s application to acquire the land under a compulsory purchase order (CPO) at a public inquiry earlier this year, which was required for the scheme to go ahead.
The council’s plans for Twickenham Riverside involve moving the gardens to the centre of the site and building two new blocks on either side – with a five-storey building on Wharf Lane and a four-storey block on Water Lane.
There would be 45 new homes across both buildings, including 21 affordable homes, along with new shops, offices, a café and a pub on the site.
Plans for the new open space include an event space, a children’s play area, pitches, terraced lawns and new trees.
The trust has objected to the scheme, with particular concerns the Wharf Lane building would be too tall. It said it wants the council to keep and expand the gardens at its existing location as part of any redevelopment project.
But the scheme won planning permission in November last year, and a public inquiry on the council’s proposed CPO of the gardens took place in June this year.
A total of 147 objections, and 66 letters of support, were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate regarding the CPO.
Objectors raised concerns over the height, scale and design of the proposed buildings and whether the block on Wharf Lane was needed for the scheme, along with the extent and quality of the proposed open space.
But the council argued the scheme would improve the site and the new open space would be better than the existing space in terms of quantity and quality.
It said the Water Lane building would be of a similar height to nearby buildings on King Street, while the Wharf Lane block would serve as a destination point along the river. It added removing either building would have a negative impact on the viability of the scheme.
The council also said it had been negotiating with the trust since 2018, but that it resorted to applying for a CPO to deliver the scheme in a “timely way” as no legal agreement had been reached.
Planning inspector Peter Rose ruled the new open space “would be larger than the existing, better connected, more accessible, better disposed towards the river, and provide a comparable range of play/recreational opportunities”.
He also said the two proposed buildings would “appear relatively unimposing and self-contained”.
Granting the CPO, Mr Rose said: “The scheme is likely to make Twickenham a far more attractive place to visit and enjoy and that, in turn, is also likely to add to the vitality and strength of the local economy.”
He added: “The quality of the scheme draws from its distinctive relationship to the river. It seeks to embrace and harness that relationship through creation of a far safer and far more attractive riverside environment, and one in which both open space and the wider public realm would be promoted to the fore.
“Open space and the exciting untapped environmental potential of the river would no longer be marginalised and rendered subservient to vehicles and to vehicle parking.
“Additional to that would be the enhanced relationship the scheme would facilitate between the town centre and the riverside and, more generally, the considerable housing and economic and other benefits to be delivered.”
The council plans to use a stopping up order to limit car access along the embankment between Wharf Lane and Eel Pie Island Bridge for most of the day to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists as part of the redevelopment.
Wharf Lane and Water Lane would become two-way routes to maintain access for nearby residents and businesses, while the embankment could be used by lorries for loading for businesses in the early morning.
The next step for the scheme is for the council to make the stopping up order.
Lib Dem council leader Gareth Roberts said: “It has taken a long time to get to this stage, but we are delighted with the Planning Inspectorate’s decision. This is a crucial step in delivering something that residents have been asking for four decades – a scheme that connects the riverside with the town and acts as a magnet for both residents and visitors.
“Currently the site is dominated by a car park that doesn’t allow people to make the most of the river or to enjoy the beautiful riverside views. I hope that those who opposed the scheme will put their objections to one side and join with us to deliver a regenerated heart for Twickenham.”