Monday, 13 January 2020

A new Thames bridge to facilitate Active Travel

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames (LBRUT) is the only London borough to be situated (equally) on both sides of the river. Building a new bridge over the river Thames is not a decision anyone takes lightly, especially in West London, which hasn’t had a new bridge for a long time.  

Did you know?
Richmond Bridge is the oldest surviving Thames Bridge still in use. (It was the eighth Thames bridge to be erected in what is known as Greater London, built in 1777 by James Paine and Kenton Couse). Kingston Bridge was built in 1828, Teddington Lock bridges (with a small island between them) were built between 1887-1889 and Twickenham Bridge didn’t come along until 1933, when the Chertsey Arterial Road was developed (now known as the A316).

So, when LBRUT invited members of the public to share ideas for Twickenham (July 2010) Mark Wing and Richard Woolf decided to introduce Radnor Bridge. They said it was the ‘Big Idea’ Twickenham and Ham desperately needed – A new Thames crossing to facilitate Active Travel. Providing the densely populated Strawberry Hill access to vast metropolitan open land just 90m away, and people in Ham access to public transport connections previously out of reach.

The Radnor Bridge (named after Radnor Gardens, where it lands on the north bank) is a strategic solution to a divided 'transpontine' borough and promises a wonderful legacy for future generations; It will be engineered to protect biodiversity, creating a green corridor from Twickenham through to Richmond Park and beyond. Thus completing the Arcadian vision of previous generations.

It will have an elegant architectural form, and be as much about the landscape as the structure. The deck will provide two segregated levels. The higher level will be for pedestrians (a safe disabled compliant route), while the lower level will be for cyclists (a two-lane provision for substantial cycle capacity for commuters and leisure cyclists alike). Together these will deliver a single span crossing with clearance height for river cruisers.

Three schools and a University will benefit enormously – Radnor House School and St Catherine's School, the German School in Ham, and then of course St Mary's University in Strawberry Hill – There are many parents from both sides of the river who have written, saying how they want their children's commute to be shorter and safer. By simply crossing the river at Radnor Gardens many of their concerns will be addressed and a lot of commuters will be taken off the roads.

If fresh air is your thing then Radnor Bridge will square the circle; connecting Ham House to Strawberry Hill House and then on to York House, Orleans Gallery and Marble Hill House, before you return to Ham via Hammertons Ferry. And if you want to learn how to sail then Thames Young Mariners, located in Ham Lands, will be an easier place to reach.

Martin Habell, Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health, said (in his call to LBRUT to make Richmond a world leader in healthy living); “There is of course great opportunity: recent proposals for a pedestrian bridge from Ham to Radnor Gardens, to open up green space for central Twickenham residents should be moved up the agenda as part of a walking network par-excellence”.

After years of campaigning, the Council’s Local Plan committed to investigating the possibility of a footbridge across the Thames between Ham and Twickenham. Consultants WSP were asked to carry out high-level work, comparing potential locations for foot/cycle bridges within Richmond.  Their brief was to identify where in Richmond any locations for bridges might stack up in terms of need, demand, cost and deliverability. The Radnor Bridge location (ref: Bridge13) came out favourably in this work and in October 2018, a new administration in LBRUT invited the borough through an online consultation to “have your say”.

New Thames crossings are few and far between. Even accounting for the lesser width of the river in Richmond there remain significant engineering, environmental and cost challenges. The feasibility study, started by WSP, helps the Council identify these challenges and determine next steps. Who will fund it, is seen as the first hurdle… but this is not thought as insurmountable.

In July 2019, Richmond Council declared a climate emergency. As part of this declaration, the Council resolves to be recognised as the greenest London borough and to become carbon neutral by 2030. The Council therefore adopted a new ambitious Local Implementation Plan featuring the headline target for 75% of trips to be by sustainable modes (walking, cycling and public transport) by 2041, from a baseline of 61%. It has now been suggested that parties seeking representation in the 2022 Council elections should include plans for a “TwicknHamBridge” in their manifestos.

Watch this space.

About the author;
Mark Wing has lived in Twickenham since 1970. A creative strategist and brand consultant he is the owner of Interrelated Ltd and the founder of the Radnor Bridge idea. He invited Richard Woolf, who has lived in Ham since 1980, to join him in this campaign in 2010. Richard is an architect and together with his wife Fiona McDaniel runs McDaniel Woolf in Richmond.

A version of this article was first published in Darling Magazine on 10th January 2020.

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