Sunday, 22 January 2017

Leader’s Question Time at The Stoop

Question about pedestrian and cycle-bridge across the River Thames

Radnor Bridge representative, Mark Wing, attended the Leader’s Question Time event last week held at the Stoop. He took the opportunity to ensure Radnor Bridge had not been forgotten and to ask that a formal discussion about it be included within the Village Planning documents and discussions. 

The following is transcribed from a recording of the question Mark put to the panel and the ensuing discussion /responses that followed. 

In summary
Mark was pleased to have taken the time out to attend this event. He is also grateful to Lord True for his open and honest reply to Mark’s request. And also to Pamela Fleming, for her subsequent promise to ensure a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the River Thames is included as an “aspirational project” within the Village plans. (Listen at 1:07:12 on YouTube link)

The transcript
Mark Wing: “I’ve been actively campaigning since 2010, when we had the Barefoot Consultation, for a pedestrian and cycle-bridge across the River Thames, connecting Twickenham and Ham. I’ve engaged with a number of individuals on the council but not really taken too formal an approach with it thus far. I’ve been working on some ideas with an architect (Richard Woolf) who’s based in Richmond and lives in Ham. (This evening) I just wanted to register that this is something we are very keen to see happen. Believing it provides a wonderful, truly fantastic, legacy for the generations to come.
There have been 3 or 4 bridges mooted since 2010. We (Richard and I) have always been very keen to convey that the best location for the bridge would be from Radnor Gardens across to Ham Lands and that opens up some discussions to be had. I’d therefore like to find the right opportunities and create the right formal approach to have a proper debate about this subject. We have plenty of social media conversation about it and lots of positive feedback. There is obviously also some people who are concerned about our idea and we understand that is to be expected. We just want to make sure that the right conversation is being had and that the right members of the council can demonstrate to us that they are actually actively taking an interest in this and would perhaps encourage myself and Richard to step forward and find the right, formal, way to move these discussions forward.
I’m just a resident here and I live locally. I appreciate that this could also have been raised at the Strawberry Hill or Ham Village Talks too.”

Chairman, Robin Ghurbhurun (CEO Richmond College): “So the question is really a request for a formal debate from the Council on the subject of a pedestrian and cycle-bridge across the River Thames.”

Lord True (Head of Council): “This is something that came up. I believe as an aspiration there is room for it in the Village Plan. The problem (this helps address) is the relative economic weakness of parts of Ham and the increase of footfall and movement back and forth that we need. So, socially it is a very good idea. The problem is that I’m not the sort of person who will go around promising ‘oh that’s a good idea we must do something there’ as this only debases the coinage of politics.
It will cost a lot of money. We’d have to get the right design. Have to be sure the bridge will be clear of the necessary activities on the river. Have to be sure where the footings are. And there are many of the Friends of Radnor Gardens who are not so keen for it to take off from there. So it’s an idea that the council, if I’m being candid, is not actively working on at the moment. Its something that would be nice to think about and I understand that has been the case for some time.
Maybe we ought to do more about, perhaps if there was a demand. Classically, this is the sort of thing that might be activated if it was supported by a lottery application or similar form of finance. Of course we don’t want to undermine the ferries or other river based activities. But as an idea it is certainly something I’d like to look into, but given all the other things we have to pursue it is not something we are actively pursuing. I wouldn’t want to discourage you by saying it will never happen. But remember that someone has got to write the check and weigh it up against all the other things we need to do.”

Chairman, Robin Ghurbhurun (addressing Lord True): “I think Mark is asking for a feasibility discussion, after 7 years of working on this. Is this a discussion that can be had?”

Lord True: “Well I think at some point we could once again look at ‘the river path concept’. I’m not a Twickenham person, but I find the whole river along this stretch to be absolutely ravishing. With the wonderful buildings and wonderful open spaces alongside it, makes it one of the absolute jewels – this should be one of the bright spots – in the whole of London. But it’s all divided up disparately, with different management. The property is managed differently and you get bits of Port of London Authority alongside Richmond Council areas, etc. I’ve always had this idea to get everyone to sit round the table together and make this an official group of people who said ‘yes we want this to be something special’. From time to time I give that a bit of a nudge. But its never quite got going because people have other things to do. Within that sentiment, the uses of individual parts of the river could come up for discussion. So I have an open mind about it… (Planning consent difficulties raised by person in the audience) …It would be difficult to get planning authority in Radnor Gardens, but that doesn’t mean we should canvas the discussion. Obviously it is not possible to design a bridge here. However, it is a really interesting idea and maybe if the tooth fairies were to come down and provide the funding and remove any of the obstacles it might be a nice things to see happen, but we are a long way from this happening.”

Mark Wing (response): “Thank you very much. I just want to get the debate going. It’s already happening online. We have discussed it in the past, but I’d like to know somebody on the council is interested in picking it up. We’ve used language like ‘it is a big idea. And it is a big idea that this area really does need’. I don’t see why there would be planning restrictions. I would encourage you to look at a recent article on our blog indicating five really good reasons why that particular location will work very well and you can see how the design doesn’t actually encroach on the Gardens any more than the existing pathway does. So I would encourage people to look at that. It’s not that we are trying to convey a particular design right now. We just want to get the debate happening. But a design is important for when I get fed back these kind of comments. And from a costing point of view we do believe this bridge will represent a hugely powerful and important piece of transport infrastructure for the area and when you think that it will connect Ham House, Strawberry Hill House, York House and then Marble Hill House then it really does lend something to tourism and leisure pursuits. It's the perfect midway point along the river. And on the point about Hammerton Ferries, we’re absolutely convinced that it would add value to people’s enjoyment of Hammerton Ferries, not destroy Hammerton Ferries as a business. Anything closer to Hammerton Ferries might do so but this particular location is the perfect midway point. And the other thing is that I am amazed to understand that Richmond Borough Council is the only Borough that sits across the river and yet we haven’t had a new bridge built since 1929. The growth in the population – and there has been a lot of talk about this tonight – warrants this. It will get people out of their cars and improve their use of the natural environment and as a result their wellness. There are lots of good socio and economic reasons that exist for this bridge. It would clearly pay for itself no end.”

Lord True: “Well look, you’ve made a very strong case which we’ve all heard. I did in my enquiry say that I can see the economic socio and environmental benefits of the bridge and I do believe the concept is important. But what I’m not going to do is be misleading in saying that suddenly we are going to dust this down and promise you that we will build the bridge, because I don’t have the means nor do I have the public ascent for that currently. But its an interesting idea that’s been put on the table but its not one that I personally can take to the Borough, I do what the borough asks. And so from my own perspective, I think it is a very interesting idea and I hope it stays on the table.”

Mark Wing: “Thank you”.

Pamela Fleming (Councilor): “I just wanted to add that this is an opportune moment. We are doing a planning document. We have the village planning. And while it is a rather large village planning project,… Its very aspirational for a village planning project but I think it is one to bring in to the discussion whilst we’re having meetings on the village plans and at the drop ins. Obviously there are lots of other priorities that people are going to have but I think it should be there on the table in the discussions we are having.

Mark Wing: “Thank you”.

Chairman, Robin Ghurbhurun: “So Mark you’ve got a partial invitation there, which is hopefully what you needed.”


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