Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Richard tells it as it is

The New Year sees communities east and west of Radnor Bridge reflecting on major infrastructure projects due for completion in the 2020’s . Both projects have been discussed and debated for decades and are now progressing at a pace. They will have a significant impact on how we move and connect around the borough, making the second stage strategy report on a bridge crossing over the Thames vital. 

The development of the Ham Close estate will see the current 192 flats and maisonettes replaced with 542 flats, mainly six storeys in height. This substantial increase in housing and growth of population will be the greatest evolution in Ham and Petersham for half a century. It will obviously have a massive impact on the transportation links which are recognised as being some of the worst in Great London. 

The progress of the Twickenham Riverside redevelopment is also gathering momentum. It is to the Councils credit that the new scheme has recalibrated the objective to restore and enhance the derelict site, giving greater emphasis on amenity space for residents and attracting commercial and leisure use within the town centre. 

What both schemes will benefit from is communication, and the Radnor Bridge is ideally placed to compliment both. 

We start the 2020’s in trepidation and isolation . Wouldn’t planning a foot and cycle bridge at Radnor Gardens be the ideal way to show our commitment to future generations that we take sustainable travel seriously ?

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside Virtual Community Conversation (recorded on 9th July)

This is the Ham, Petersham and Richmond Riverside Virtual Community Conversation recorded on 9th July and publicly available on YouTube - Chaired by Gareth Roberts, Leader of the Council.

In the interest of furthering the debate we wanted to share this video, while pointing out a few anomalies. You will need to jump to the relevant part of the meeting on this subject. We would rather this is not a "hot potato", but that's the nature public debating. Note, the #RadnorBridge team was not in attendance...
  • A question was put by Adam Gatehouse (pictured above) regarding the #TwickNHamBridge around 25mins in. 
  • There is also a useful response from Andree Frieze at 27mins regarding the £20m made available by Central Government (consistent with what we have shared previously).
  • And then from Penny Frost at 29mins who is keen to preserve Ham Lands as untouched and also ensure the Council improves usage of existing infrastructure.

Our chief concerns about the Points Of Views shared

The Radnor Bridge team is concerned that the question doesn't seem to understand the importance or need for improved active travel infrastructure for those who live West of Ham. NB: North of Ham is East Twickenham (not Twickenham or Strawberry Hill or Fulwell for that matter).

In essence, we need a #TwickNHamBridge that will serve communities in Twickenham - which is in the west of the borough. And as such does not have an equal distance to the park gates as those living in Petersham - which Adam (the person posing the question) appears to imply.

Also, due to the distances involved, the Radnor Gardens location is NOT an alternative to #TeddingtonLock, which is located in Teddington (obviously). It is in fact the exact mid-way point between Richmond and Kingston bridges and serves a larger community pool than Teddington Lock does at the moment.

Finally, the concerns raised for the Ham Lands were addressed in our response article here.

What we said previously about Ham Lands

We're not sure what is meant by "extraordinary ecological uniqueness of Ham Lands", which in our opinion appear to be in some need of tender loving care and restoration.

The Radnor Bridge proposal will bring much needed investment to help manage and sustain the Lands more effectively. Something the Friends of Ham Lands at HUG (Ham United Group) have also identified; "Left to itself, as a wilderness, it would soon deteriorate as rampant and invasive species crowd out the more sensitive plants, block pathways, and colonise the more open scrub and grassland."

This is a summary edit from our response article;

"...an effective pathway across the Lands, for access to the bridge, should provide us all with an opportunity to seriously think about how the land can be better managed to support the movement of people while effectively sustaining its wonderful bio-diversity.

For change to happen we need the engagement of environmental groups and their considerable knowledge to help research and define the opportunities and threats to this valuable common land. There is always a better way..."

Thursday, 2 July 2020

An invitation to provide feedback to the Chair of The Ham and Petersham Association

An invitation to provide feedback. Please read to the end...
The Ham & Petersham Association shared concerns for a pedestrian and cycle bridge between Twickenham and Ham in their newsletter this week. They stated these as;
Concern for the level of local consultation.
  • Apparently only 187 people from Ham and Petersham took part in the consultation about this two years ago.
Concern for consequences of a bridge (which include):
  • A slightly shorter walk or cycle ride to Twickenham Station.
    (Not sure WE see this as a 'concern', more a blessing)
  • Harm to the character of Ham and Petersham.
  • Harm to the biodiversity.
    (This is an old one. Please see our blog here)
  • Turning Ham into a commuter parking hotspot.
  • Damage to Hammerton Ferry.
  • Increase in leisure cyclists from the other side of the Thames making their way out of London.
The Association also shared that they would prefer to spend any money raised for this topic on improving Teddington Lock Bridge or access to Hammerton Ferry.
None of the above seems a concern to us, just something to manage carefully. 
However, the Radnor Bridge team is troubled that the Ham & Petersham Association likes to publicly champion an opposition to the bridge - galvanising disgruntled Ham residents around the Association in the process. Their preference is to preserve Ham Lands as a "private back garden" for a small number of people who live in Ham. 
Obviously we actively encourage debate on this subject. It's healthy to explore alternative points of view. But refusing to acknowledge the benefits a bridge can 'gift' to the wider borough community is counter to our vision. And choosing to 'lock down' the Lands for the enjoyment of a few people seems plain wrong. So since they have invited feedback from residents on this matter, we would like to invite you to write to them with a response. 
The address is chair@hamandpetersham.com
Feel free to copy us in at RadnorBridge@interrelated.co.uk too.

Thank you.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

£20m should do it... But which to vote for?

That should do it...

As you may by now have read elsewhere; Richmond Council has put forward a £20m bid to Central Government - who are requesting shovel ready infrastructure projects to invest in. This is part of a strategy to drive the economy out of the Covid19 crisis.

The Council's bid is for a cycling and walking bridge between Twickenham and Ham. Hurrah!

...but which bridge to build?

We are obviously in direct communication on a regular basis with the key Councillors involved in this process. However, we also know from our conversations with them that (from the various bridge suggestions in the WSP report) two locations are considered most feasible and were well supported by residents too. As you may know from the WSP feasibility report released in 2018/19, the most favoured was in fact the Orleans location. We think the term "most favourable" is questionable. Mainly because the feedback sought was mostly requested from the Ham Neighbourhood, for whom this subject was front of mind at the time. People in the wider borough communities, who will benefit from an West-East journey, were not so openly consulted. However we need your support to help us confirm this thinking. Which is why we are continuing to keenly seek wider community support via social media channels.

This feedback from the The Richmond Society lets us know which of the two bridges they would like to proceed with. It was published in January 2019 following the Council's request for feedback on the WSP feasibility report. We think their response is very interesting as it accurate represents our thoughts too.

The Council's point of view.

The Council's bid is obviously still open to either of the locations being the site of the aforementioned bridge. And as a council, representing the whole borough, LBRUT feels it must continue to remain open to the prospect of either location (...that is, until they have further decisive information).

We are therefore campaigning here, to ensure that more people are aware of the difference between the two bridges in question. this is so they can help lobby the Council on this matter (in their own small way), or at least make an informed decision when asked once more to vote on this matter. We hope this will happen soon.

Two different bridge objectives.

Simply put, the two bridges in question do not serve the same purpose. That's because their locations and the relative benefits they will each bring to the community borough wide are different.
  1. The Orleans Bridge provides access for people living in Ham to 'commute' north of the river. (People in East Twickenham only really need this southerly movement for leisure pursuits, which is already aptly served by Hammerton's Ferry.)
  2. The Radnor Bridge provides a purpose built active travel solution for a far wider group of the borough who need to travel West-East. Which is why we refer to Radnor Bridge as a 'strategic link at the heart of the borough'. This includes children getting to school, business commuters as well as supporting ramblers and other leisure pursuits. Our video here shows this off well.
How has this debate come about?

In a recent communication with the Council we reiterated that we were very pleased they have taken action on this matter. They did this by taking the trouble to release the previous administration’s feasibility study into this subject - which for some strange reason had not been brought to the public's attention. [We think this feasibility study may have come about in part because we specifically asked for it during one of the Village Meet Ups - Leader’s Question Time at The Stoop - held in March 2017. There is a transcript on the link just provided.]

We know that many people have for years been keen to see a bridge across the river to connect the Borough better. Indeed the Thames Arcadian Landscape Strategy in the 1990’s almost indicates that a bridge from Ham Lands to Radnor Gardens would be appropriate.

Richard Woolf and Mark Wing (the Radnor Bridge team) originally proposed the "Radnor Bridge" at the Council’s Barefoot consultation held in Twickenham in 2010. this was an open invitation for fresh ideas from the local community. (Once we had put our idea forward, we simply couldn’t let it go.) The reason we used this event as an opportunity to put our idea forward was because The Richmond & Twickenham Times had just released an artist's impression of a bridge between Twickenham and Ham. Sadly it was a prominent and obtrusive design, to be located nearer to Marble Hill. The proposed location was in direct line of site from Richmond Hill and didn’t offer anything to the community on the Twickenham side that wasn’t already available from the ferry service. We therefore felt at the time that this was an absurd suggestion. Hence we started our campaign.

In the early days we would often 'jokingly' refer to a bridge connecting Twickenham with Ham as the #TwickNHamBridge. We then chose to deliberately name it Radnor Bridge, to help solidify our belief that this is the best location for an effective and more strategic connection in the borough; We believe that this location will connect a far broader community base and offer much needed Active Travel infrastructure at a time when the communities are growing in number and there is a eagerness to reduce car usage

As mentioned above, the alternative option to the #RadnorBridge is to be located at Orleans Gardens and for some reason their online communications to date have been using the name of "TwickNHam Bridge". See this article here for more on our perspective on this.

Now, this is important; ensuring we are 'shovel ready'.

So, back to the bid. As we said earlier, Central Government is requesting shovel ready infrastructure projects to invest in. Meaning, projects that are good to go!

In the (previously mentioned blog article above) about the WSP feasibility study and Next steps, we shared that we have been trying to encourage the Council to move to the next stage, perhaps with further input from WSP. After all, we need to find out which bridge the local community wants to see built and start to investigate any planning considerations that must to be considered. The key one that comes to mind is the subject of the biodiversity across Ham Lands and how to manage this going forward, which we wrote about here.

In response to this challenge (since the £20m bid was submitted) we received a reply from the Council to say that it is still seeing this as "...chicken and egg"; It's clear that spending funds on further work without a clear trajectory to capital is challenging. And it is also clear that bidding for capital funds without all precursors complete is challenging too.

However this response concerns us, mainly because it is once again delivers a sense of inertia.

Conversely, we have also received separate communications from other Councillors who say they are frustrated with the previous administration's lack of action on this matter;

"...it frustrates me a little that the Council haven't, over the past 10 or 15 years, developed a decent file of shovel ready infrastructure projects for just this eventuality. I appreciate it means spending resource on detailed plans without identifying the funding stream in advance. However, austerity was never going to last forever, and the idea of government infrastructure spending comes back into fashion eventually."

Remember, 'shovel ready' projects was a requirement of the aforementioned bid to Central Government.

The bid was submitted on the basis that "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take". And we are excited and pleased that this administration has taken such a bullish approach in their decision to take action here. But we also understand their reservations. One Councillor said;

"I am not particularly holding my breath on this application as Government are giving priority to "shovel ready" projects and that's where we may struggle."

But surely last week's fantastic decision to get the bid out, along with the above shared concerns, means now is the time to continue taking positive steps forward. In our opinion, all of this implies that perhaps the "egg" should come first.

Maybe now is the time for more quick and decisive action. Only then will we stand the chance of at least appearing to be "shovel ready" when the bid results come through.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Nature Conservation (SMINC), site ref MO 83

One of the concerns we often get challenged with is the impact the Radnor Bridge will have on the biodiversity found on Ham Lands.

Ham Lands is a Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation (SMINC) [site ref MO 83].  For this reason it is managed according to a Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme ‘to improve and maintain the quality of the semi-improved meadow grassland, scrub, pond and wetland habitats’.

SWLEN (South West London Environment Network) wrote an article about this here.

In it they share their chief concern of Radnor Bridge "...would be considerable disruption and disturbance to habitats and biodiversity along the length of the route and the permanent intrusion of activity both by those traveling along the path and those drawn to the area by the new bridge and path..."

In response we have always maintained that this is something that can be controlled if managed carefully. Although we accept this is not an area of our own personal expertise, we have cited the land management in Richmond Park and along the Crane River as great examples of how to do this well.

Over the past two years, substantial upgrades of the tow paths along the riverside around Ham Lands have been undertaken. We would welcome feedback from the Council on what ecological impact these measures have had, if any.

In the past, we have suggested that perhaps the job of improving and maintaining "the quality of the semi-improved meadow grassland, scrub, pond and wetland habitats" means that Ham Lands can't be left without effective investment in its land management. This is something that the Friends of Ham Lands at HUG (Ham United Group) have also identified; "Left to itself, as a wilderness, it would soon deteriorate as rampant and invasive species crowd out the more sensitive plants, block pathways, and colonise the more open scrub and grassland." We agree. Leaving the lands so that nature manages itself (which seems to be happening across much of Ham Lands) is not an acceptable solution for a semi-urban environment. Over the years, Ham Lands have clearly become quite degraded. Sadly, the Great River Avenue already exists in a derelict fashion. This is an important 'vista' line from the memorial in Radnor Gardens to the Star & Garter on Richmond Hill (identified in the Arcadian Thames Landscape Strategy) and will be the main access route to the bridge.

Investing in the Radnor Bridge could bring with it much needed cash to support the management of Ham Lands. Developing an effective pathway across the Lands, for access to the bridge, should provide us all with an opportunity to seriously think about how the land can be better managed to support the movement of people while effectively sustaining its wonderful bio-diversity.

For change to happen we need the engagement of environmental groups and their considerable knowledge to help research and define the opportunities and threats to this valuable common land. There is always a better way... And we're sure if we can work together we'll find it. In our opinion, their current approach toward this debate has hindered progress into improving and maintaining 'the quality of the semi-improved' Ham Lands for the wider borough as a whole to enjoy.

The lands should not be the private back garden for a few local people in Ham. They should be managed to support the natural environment so that it can be enjoyed by all the borough. The police in Ham have said to us on several occasions (since we started campaigning for Radnor Bridge in 2010) that they would welcome improved movement across the lands. We believe this may also be to help curb elements of well documented anti-social behaviour that happens across Ham Lands.

Safe use of the bridge and associated pathways will need careful design. Light pollution is a concern, as is the perception of Ham Lands as a "no-go area" for large parts of the community. Safety will therefore be an important consideration going forward. We understand consideration for lighting will have to be part of this and yet we also appreciate that the Bats like a "dark corridor". However, we remain convinced, a solution to this can be developed given the right focus and attention. Lighting has moved on a long way and it is likely someone has had to deal with this type of issue elsewhere.

In their article SWLEN appears to recommend a bridge located near Ham House, connecting with Orleans Gardens on the Twickenham side (bridge #15 in the WSP report). The article goes on to say; “We feel a bridge needs to connect two communities, not just one, particularly when being built at great expense by the public purse.” We couldn't agree more.

In response we hope SWLEN will come to realise that the Radnor Bridge will provide improved connectivity for several communities - not just one. Indeed Radnor Bridge (#13 in the WSP report) is a strategic link across the river Thames, located at the center of the borough, to provide advantages to many people/communities. In this way it will serve more people than the Orleans Bridge will ever manage to do. Hopefully our video goes someway to showing this.

The Radnor Bridge team (Mark Wing and Richard Woolf) has been asking LBRuT (since the WSP report was released in October 2018) for an independent second feasibility report which brings analysis, research and scientific facts to the actual situation on Ham Lands. We'd like to know the true state of its ecological condition, to help clarify the threats and opportunities Ham Lands must consider to safeguard its future. When challenged, Richard adds "...we need facts, not assumptions."

NB: This weekend we were impressed by some remarkable photographs Ingrid Demaerschalk‎ posted in Nature in Richmond Borough on Facebook. These were all taken along the well lit, and extremely well used, river path on the Twickenham side suggesting that nature and people can cohabit very well.


Friday, 15 May 2020

Video: Opening up enjoyment of the surrounding area

Enjoy the riverside?

Richard and Mark have produced a short video to illustrate how #RadnorBridge together with the ferry at Hammertons, will help open up enjoyment of the surrounding area.


How to connect with the Radnor Bridge team

If you feel greater connection and sustainable travel is a vision you support, please join us in making the Radnor Bridge part of the next generation's future.


Do you live in Ham?

If you live in Ham and you are keen to have a bridge to Twickenham solely for commuting reasons, then these videos may be a useful ones to watch.

Radnor Bridge to Twickenham Station:

Radnor Bridge to Strawberry Hill station:

Finally, if you need it...
Ham to Radnor Bridge (along the Great River Avenue):

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

WSP reports and next stages

In 2013 LBRuT published its Mini-Holland strategy, listing several possible bridges between Ham and Twickenham.

In 2018 the council invited consultants WSP to run a feasibility study on the idea of a bridge to connect Twickenham and Ham.

You can find this feasibility study here; https://www.richmond.gov.uk/media/16407/thames_bridge_feasibility_study.pdf

At the end of 2018 (and running in to the beginning of 2019) the Council invited the public to share its thoughts on the feasibility study. A simple research survey, with standard questions, was put to interested parties. The results of this are available and can now also be found in this feedback document here; https://haveyoursay.citizenspace.com/richmondecs/thames-bridge/user_uploads/thames-bridge-full-report---final.pdf

Quick summary on feedback

There were 1000'ish responses (very good for this sort of thing), 80% positive (again excellent) with two bridges (bridge 13 and bridge 15) coming out as most popular. The Radnor Bridge (bridge 13) being one of these.

Next stage is trying to get a more thorough technical and financial study on the two serious runners, so we have a workable proposal for supporters and stakeholders to work with, that's all positive and builds momentum.

Radnor Bridge is communicating with Council members, including Cllr Alexander Ehmann [ Chair - Transport and Air Quality Committee at LBRuT ], to keep the debate going and also encourage a WSP follow up consultation/report.

We are now looking forward to hearing what the next steps might be with regard to building a bridge across the Thames to connect Ham and Twickenham, and for Cllr Ehmann's thoughts on the Radnor Bridge option.

Our communications have gone along the following lines;

The Radnor Bridge could provide much needed connectivity between Ham and Twickenham that will reduce the need for people to travel between the two places via Richmond and Kingston Bridges, releasing pressure on roads. As a cycle and pedestrian bridge it fits in with the Council's strategy of encouraging healthy, sustainable means of transport.  It will provide access to Strawberry Hill train station for residents of Ham, who currently have no train station nearby.

The Radnor Bridge would bring a number of schools and colleges within easy reach of people living on opposite sides of the river and has much to commend it architecturally.

The Radnor Bridge team would like to know what next steps the Council will take towards constructing a bridge and whether they would agree to commissioning a follow-up report on the viability of a bridge crossing.

The Radnor Bridge team presented to the LBRuT Air Quality Services Committee meeting on the 21st October 2019 and received a positive response.

Also, Caroline Pidgeon put a question to the Mayor of London in 2018, about whether TfL officers would provide professional and technical support if LBRuT want to proceed with a bridge and was assured that this would be available, if requested.