Infrastructure Survey 2020 – Report

Overview

The Richmond Society sought feedback around several current infrastructure concerns using a survey on the Society’s web site. The survey ran for three weeks from June 1 to June 21 and consisted of 10 questions with respondents having a free text response. Its initial promotion was via a Chairman’s email to members followed by periodic mentions using our social media channels.

In total 89 responses were received of which 49 were from members (55%) and 40 from non-members (45%). Some of those non-members joined the Society immediately after completing the survey.

Responses were anonymised before evaluating how the answers addressed the specific theme(s) pre-determined as underlying each question. This evaluation was confirmed using a panel of three Trustees members and two sub-committee members. The anonymisation of responses coupled with a panel review helped to reduce personal preferences being applied to the interpretation of responses.

The aim of the survey was to seek broad reactions and, because the methods and small sample size do not offer statistical assurance, the analysis is presented only with a commentary. The detailed results will however be used to guide the Society’s Executive Committee when forming policy and responding to council consultations.

Results

Question 1

Please comment as a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian about the effectiveness of the social distancing measures currently in place and any problems you have encountered with them.

Objective

To establish whether respondents felt the council’s temporary COVID-19 measures had been effective.

Comments

There was the entire spectrum of responses ranging from “fantastic” to “not working” but, on balance, the views were positive with more than half of members who answered the question supporting the measures. Negative comments tended to suggest that people’s individual experiences might be affected by how seriously other people that they encountered were (or were not) applying the social distancing guidelines.

Several people commented that the one-way arrangement on Richmond Bridge was often not followed and a few cyclists observed that the barriers on George Street had forced them into the traffic stream in a dangerous way.


Question 2

To what extent would you support pavement widening/road narrowing on George Street once social distancing is no longer expected? How might your views change if traffic volumes are not sufficiently reduced and the measures led to more congestion in the town, or displacement to Richmond Green and/or residential areas around Richmond Hill? Do you have suggestions for managing this?

Objective

To gauge the level of interest in wider pavements and less traffic through the town.

Comments

If wider pavements carried no repercussions for traffic, we would expect most people to prefer more space to walk. If a respondent qualified their support with concerns about the impact for traffic displacement and/or increased congestion, they were recorded as preferring to retain the pre-COVID-19 situation.

After applying this criterion, the majority view was opposed to pavement widening due to the concerns about the traffic repercussions. A few people felt that creating a more difficult passage for vehicles through the town might reduce traffic volumes and bring improved air quality while others noted that a single traffic lane could cause traffic hold ups behind buses at their stops.

The council is evaluating different methods for reducing the overall traffic volume passing through George Street. This will seek to encourage vehicles to bypass the town on alternative routes with cameras used to enforce restrictions on certain types of town centre traffic. Those restrictions are not published but may initially be based on levels of exhaust emissions.

As a stakeholder member of the council’s Town Centre Advisory Group (“TCAG”) the Richmond Society has not opposed traffic reduction measures for the town provided traffic is not simply displaced somewhere else and provided business servicing requirements are accommodated. If the planned measures to reduce traffic prove successful and traffic volumes fall significantly, then some people who gave their qualified support for wider pavements are likely to become outright supporters.


Question 3

Should controls be introduced that would require vehicles to give way to pedestrians wherever they choose to cross George Street? If not, do you think additional crossing points are needed and where should they be located?

Objective

To assess the extent of concern about the perceived ease of crossing and whether this was considered enough of a problem to endorse any pedestrianisation initiatives.

Comments

Over half of respondents did not indicate problems crossing between shops on each side of the road wherever they wished. Partly this is because there are sufficient gaps created in the traffic flow due to it being “pulsed” down George Street thanks to the formal crossing outside House of Fraser. There were several comments opposing anything that would require more street clutter and a number along the lines of “leave it alone”.

A couple of people specifically highlighted the dangers crossing Eton Street at The Square. The Society has long flagged this location as a high priority for attention and more recently has supported ideas from the council’s consultants for a road treatment and new layout that would indicate this is shared space where vehicles have a lower priority relative to pedestrians.


Question 4

Do you have suggestions for relieving pavement overcrowding (most especially around the bus stops near Waterloo Place and outside RBS)?

Objective

Free form answer to see what suggestions materialise. Common themes were grouped together.

Comments

Nearly 40% of respondents either did not answer this question, or offered no suggestions. Of those who did give a view, most members suggested moving the bus stops while most non-members suggested wider pavements.

Neither solution is straightforward because TfL sets minimum and maximum distances between bus stops which limits the flexibility for moving them and widening the pavement is awkward where the road width is constrained. However, a few suggestions about moving the Waterloo Place stop to Eton Street might be achievable and remain within the distance limitations if this can be safely included into a redesign of The Square.

Perhaps the most practical suggestion as suggested by three members would be to mark up the pavement with hatching and/or a suitable message e.g. “don’t wait here” or “keep clear”. Coupled with the removal of street clutter and some A’ boards this could provide an easy win.


Question 5

Do you think the right amount of space has been allocated for waiting taxis? If not, should there be more or less space? Are additional taxi ranks needed anywhere else in the town?

Objective

To assess the strength of feeling behind frequent complaints about the space given over to taxi ranks.

Comments

Many people did not answer this question or did not have a view but, of those who gave a view, a small majority was unhappy with the current arrangements and there was no support for increasing the space given over to taxis. Some people commented that formal taxi ranks seem anachronistic in the days of Uber.


Question 6

Does the balance between pedestrians and cyclists on the towpath feel about right? If not how and where should priorities be changed?

Objective

To ascertain the imperative for change given comments about cyclists increased use of the towpath.

Comments

Virtually all respondents answered this question which clearly struck a chord. People tended to show a preference for either the cycling or walking viewpoint with many comments related to behaviours which were often forthrightly expressed.

A strong majority of those who gave a view indicated concerns with the balance of interests between pedestrians and cyclists using the towpath. Complaints were levelled by both cyclists and pedestrians with evident frustration at the current situation expressed by both groups.

Several respondents commented that co-existence on the towpath worked acceptably when cyclists adopted an appropriately low speed in the presence of walkers and there was mutual respect and courtesy. A few people pointed out that the situation was more difficult during lockdown due to cyclists being barred from Richmond Park. Exercising cyclists were therefore having to compete for space with recreational and family cycling groups and with more walkers too.

The tow path is narrow in many places and a few cyclists commented on the danger arising from dogs, while pedestrians referred to being “bullied” and “frightened” by aggressive and rude cyclists (and the risk of injury to their dogs). There were some calls for dedicated cycle lanes and several suggestions that pedestrians should be asked to keep to one side or the other of the path. This latter idea might help to reduce conflict if walkers predictably moved over to the same side of the path until a cyclist has passed and it could allow cyclists to take a safe position earlier instead of trying to negotiate a route through pedestrian groups.

While there were many requests for emphasising pedestrian priority over cyclists, someone did point out that actions tended to be directed AGAINST cyclists and rarely do they seek to remind pedestrians of the need to exercise caution in shared spaces.

After this survey had closed, a petition was started on July 1 asking the council to erect “cyclists go slow shared path” blue signs along the Richmond to Teddington Towpath. The Richmond Society is not in favour of adding signage to the towpath itself, but signage at the entry points to the towpath might be acceptable. The ownership of the towpath is unclear in several stretches and, while it has the status of a public footpath throughout its length, cycling on a footpath without the owner’s consent is not permitted. The council has in the past therefore not wanted to erect signage that could appear to condone cycling where it does not have authority and potentially also give it a liability for maintenance and safety.


Question 7

A secure cycle parking hub is due to be installed in the car park at Richmond Station with significant benefits for cyclists who also commute by train. Given that George Street is one way, are the cycle routes to and from the station adequate? Would you support cycling contraflows – for example on King Street, Duke Street, Richmond Green, or Clarence Street, to enhance connectivity of the town’s cycle network? What measures would you expect to enable these contraflows to operate safely?

Objective

(a) To understand how people perceive the current provision of cycle routes (with a particular interest in the issues for cyclists wanting to travel west from the station).
(b) To collect views about cyclist contraflows given that the council is considering installing these to facilitate connections with Richmond Green and a possible contraflow through The Green. Enabling connections to Richmond Green avoids the need for cyclists to follow the one-way system up Eton Street and it might mitigate against cyclists adopting the George Street pavements as the alternative.

Comments

Nearly half of respondents did not answer the first part of the question about the adequacy of cycle routes to and from the station. Those who did respond supported better provision.

The second part of the question to collect views in response to the council’s emerging ideas for cyclist contraflows elicited more responses than the first part. Among all those who gave an opinion most were opposed to contraflows. A concern commonly expressed related to the inherent danger for both cyclists and pedestrians particularly when narrow road widths reduce the margin for accomodating human error.


Question 8

Do you think the provision of segregated cycle lanes around the town is too little, too much or about right? Would you be willing to see on-street vehicle parking reduced to release road space?

Objective

(a) Segregated cycle facilities in the town are extremely limited and this question seeks to capture perceptions around the standard of provision.
(b) Given that most roads around Richmond are relatively narrow the second part of the question seeks to understand whether respondents are prepared to trade off the provision of segregated cycle facilities with the loss of roadside parking.

Comments

The views for and against having more segregated cycle facilities were mixed, with members who gave a view opposed.

People largely did not respond to second part of the question but, of those who did, the loss of parking to install segregated cycling facilities was accepted. Members who tend to visit the town on foot might be less concerned about the loss of some parking.


Question 9

The Council has suggested locating lockable on-street bicycle parking units on the highway at four places around the town. Up to six spaces inside the locker could be rented by cyclists who do not have secure parking at home. The locker itself will use less than one car parking bay. What are your views about the concept and its design?

Objective

(a) To ascertain support for the principle of having on-street secure parking for bicycles.
(b) The council’s proposals for Bikehangars around Richmond would locate them all in conservation areas and a planning consent would therefore be expected. Residents’ views about the design are therefore of interest.

Comments

There was support for the Bikehangar as a concept, but with concerns regularly expressed about the risks of the Bikehangar attracting theft, vandalism and graffiti and some suggestions that car parks would offer a better and more secure location.

Members mainly avoided the second part of the question relating to the Bikehangar’s design but those who did give a view were deeply opposed to its utilitarian appearance. Several specifically commented that it would be an incongruous addition to the street scene around Richmond Green.


Question 10

Would you support the provision of an electric shuttle bus operating a circular route linking the station with Richmond Park via Richmond Hill? This could help residents with shopping locally and also assist visitors to Richmond Park. To what extent do you think it might ease traffic or parking congestion in Richmond? How should it be funded in the long term?

Objective

This question simply seeks to understand the level of support for an idea that has been mooted before but is not currently in active consideration. Facilitating a link into Richmond Park has gained added relevancy now that the Royal Park’s has announced plans for reducing traffic.

Comments

An electric shuttle bus was the most strongly endorsed idea in the whole survey with more than three quarters of respondents who gave an opinion supporting it. Opposition mainly arose from concerns about the extent of demand, particularly where the route might overlap with bus route 371.

Suggestions for funding a shuttle ranged from the council using parking income to provide a subsidy to a user pay as you go system.

After the survey had closed a Twickenham resident has promoted the idea to the Twittersphere where it also received positive feedback.

The council’s recent action to remove parking on Kew Road prompted some suggestions for extending the route to enable a link for visitors between Richmond Station and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Bus route 65 does of course cover this route with reasonable frequency.

Anti-Social Behaviour in Richmond

The Richmond Society is deeply concerned at anti-social behaviour and crime in the town and surrounding area as COVID-19 lockdown measures have eased. We intend to work closely with the Council, police and others to deliver improvements.

In the meantime we urge you strongly to tell the police about further incidents. You should register incidents online at www.met.police/uk. If you seek police attendance call 101 and the police will register the call and decide the priority. If you need support right away call 999.

The Society’s Trustee responsible for the town centre, licensing, anti-social behaviour and police liaison is Peter Willan. He writes:

Richmond has always been a magnet for visitors from all over London during the summer. Now it risks being the destination of choice for visitors who, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cluster and create disorder and intimidate, threaten and scare residents and other visitors. They fight and brawl, and violence erupts.

Urination and defecation in open spaces and close to homes has reached crisis levels. Noise and music disturbance, sometimes to 3:00 am, has escalated. ASB, disorder and crime in Richmond’s evening economy have risen seriously.

A large virtual public meeting arranged by the Council Leader, Cllr Gareth Roberts, with a presentation by the Police Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Sally Benatar, was attended by Society members. Members of the public, including two Trustees and other members, asked questions. A video recording of the conference can be viewed here.

Pro-active intervention and deterrence by the police and the Council’s Parkguard last weekend using dispersal and other powers reduced the number of more serious incidents and the edginess that pervaded the Green, the Riverside and the Terrace and Terrace Gardens on Richmond Hill.

The re-opening of pubs, bars and restaurants this coming Saturday and the Government’s easing of licensing laws could result in Richmond’s streets and open spaces becoming one large beer garden.

We are discussing with the authorities the lack of lavatories and the prevention of the more serious incidents of crime and disorder including drugs dealing. Disruptive people must be discouraged from coming to Richmond. The supermarket supply of alcohol to under-age drinkers is also a high priority for attention.

The Society seeks a much-needed update of the Council’s 2011 observational study of Richmond’s evening economy. We are also reviewing the application of legal powers of dispersion and Public Space Protection Orders. We are discussing with the authorities fixed and mobile CCTV coverage, and signage informing people of ASB laws and penalties.

We will continue to update you and welcome your observations about any part of the town and its surrounds that need attention. Please send any comments to us at www.richmondsociety.org.uk/contact.

Janet Locke: funeral service on 9th June

Janet’s funeral was held on Tuesday 9th June at 3:30pm. Janet’s son, Chris Locke, presented the eulogy. The Order of Service is available at this link.

Eulogy

My mother was born in Leicester on May 16 1928, the only child of Monty and Nellie Furney. Janet’s father was a tailor, her mother a milliner and seamstress. By 1928 Monty had become a regional inspector for menswear chain Burton’s, which meant a series of moves around the country as his postings changed. This peripatetic existence, with her father often away, I think contributed greatly to my mother’s self-reliance and independence throughout her life.

Much of her early childhood was spent in Cambridge, but by the war the family had moved to Buckhurst Hill on the Essex fringes of London. Here her interest in architecture was sparked when a local builder won the pools and bought a plot of land to develop in the fields at the end of their road.

She was fascinated by the plans and resolved to become an architect, a rare career then for a woman, but she was determined. Monty went to see the headmistress, Miss Essame, of her boarding school, Queenswood near Hatfield, and was directed for advice to the head’s brother, who worked for the Royal Institute of British Architects.

She enrolled in the Bartlett School of Architecture at the end of the war, one of only five or six women in her academic year, developing that passion for beauty and against ugliness that animates William Blake’s Jerusalem, which we will sing later. In 1950 she was chosen by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as one of four Lethaby Scholars to study conservation work. At the SPAB building in Great Ormond Street she met Peter Locke, a fellow Scholar who had studied at Brixton School of Building. They were introduced by the SPAB’s secretary, Monica Dance, who when they fell in love and got engaged had to ride a storm of protest that she had turned the Scholarship into a matrimonial agency by admitting females.

They married in 1952, despite her parents’ disapproval who refused to attend. Typically my mother stuck to her guns and her parents were later won round. It was a long and happy marriage, lasting more than 60 years before Peter’s death in 2012. Both practised as architects, but Janet halted in 1957 for my birth in that year and that of Susan in 1959 (Sue died in 1993, leaving two grandchildren, Tom – who died in 2015 – and Katie, who were a great joy to Janet and Peter).

Janet’s early married life with Peter was in a garret in St John’s Wood, in a top-floor room shared with a hamster called Humphrey who tended to live in the sofa and next to a boiler they nicknamed Krakatoa. Poor as they were, they still would manage the occasional treat of a night at the theatre, including one night when they had battled through a pea-souper to their seats in the gods to find the inside of the theatre full of fog. Luckily a distant voice summoned them down to the front stalls to join the other dozen people who had made it as that night’s audience. Revues were a particular favourite, which is why we will hear both Flanders and Swann and Joyce Grenfell later.

In the mid-Fifties they moved to Blackheath, to a rented flat where I and Sue appeared. This was the period when Peter had just begun working with Donald Insall as the two of them started their architectural practice specialising in the renovation they had first learned on the Lethaby Scholarship. For his work my father bought a succession of cheap ancient cars – I remember a Rover with a running board and a pre-war Austin Seven – underneath which he would spend most of the weekend doing repairs. No wonder Genevieve, the Fifties movie about the London to Brighton veteran car rally, was a film dear to them. We shall hear the theme from that later too.

Through all this, as we moved in 1962, buying a garden flat on the other side of Blackheath, my mother ran the household with endless cheer and resourcefulness. She was always ready, no matter how busy, to answer my childish questions. The only occasion she failed was when I held up a bottle of squash and asked whether “dilute to taste” meant delightful. Distracted by washing up she replied “Yes darling”. She was mortified when I recalled this years later.
Much more characteristic was when in 1967 I returned from primary school with the news that three of my class would be spectators as the Queen knighted Francis Chichester at the Royal Naval College. They would be chosen on a test of knowledge about his round-the-world voyage. I of course was hellbent on winning but knew nothing of Gipsy Moth IV and its solo skipper.
My mother must then have spent the whole of the next day in a public library because that night, the eve of the quiz, she coached me so thoroughly that I sailed through and was duly to be seen on TV sitting cross-legged in the front row of all the Greenwich tinies watching the investiture.
My mother returned to practice once we children were old enough, working for a local architect and then advising on planning applications for Lewisham council.

In 1978 they moved to Lewisham, buying and renovating a large mid-Victorian house there. It spoke to Peter’s regard for her as the better architect that he decided she should be in charge of the plans while he acted as general contractor.

In 1985 they moved to Richmond, first to a two-floor flat in Church Road and then in 1994 to a cottage in Albany Passage. They threw themselves into Richmond life, making many new friends and becoming stalwarts of the Richmond Society, of which my mother was vice-chair and served on the committees vetting planning applications and judging the annual building awards. They also fulfilled a lifelong love of travel as Peter eased into retirement.

After Peter’s death in 2012 Janet was determined to live an independent life, travelling solo abroad and continuing to absorb herself in matters cultural, historical and architectural. In 2017 however she decided, with typical practicality, that it was time to go into a care home, and the following year she moved into Lynde House in Twickenham, where she passed her remaining time amid great comfort and kindness.

I have received so many wonderful tributes, both from those in this room and those prevented from attending today. They recall Janet’s “architecturally perfect cakes, precise hairdos and her tinkling chandelier laugh”, “her unfailing kindness, generosity of spirit and interest in others”, her enthusiasm, hospitality and positivity and much, much more. Above all they concur, as the nurse who broke the news to me said, that she was “such a lovely woman”.

Go well, mother, and go with all our love.

A further short appreciation by Paul Velluet of Janet’s life and her work for The Richmond Society can be found here.

Life under Lockdown

Social distancing, self-isolating and the new normal

In the Richmond Society News of 23rd April, our chairman Barry May called for photos, short audio or video clips (less than one minute), or stories (less than 100 words), on what’s different in Richmond since social distancing and self-isolating became a thing and a new normal changed us. Here are some of the contributions.


A quiet day on Water Lane

Lamar Raine, one of The Richmond Society’s volunteers, has just completed a pen and ink and watercolour showing an all but deserted vista down to the river. She writes:

“My street, Water Lane, is now usually full of people walking to and from the river. As I watched the trees leaf up since my quarantine 27 February, having come back from Half Term in Italy, this painting shows the change. More birdlife than people and not a plane in the sky. A lovely change! However, it also shows our fabulous but now closed, new local, ‘The Waterman’s’. Indeed a sad change. Much work had gone into its ten month makeover with such a well received opening last November. Richmond Society members may know its great food, fabulous wine and warm hospitality – Karen Feeney generously hosted a ‘Thank You’ drinks for our supporters there 28 February. Let’s hope it can re-open again very soon!”.

Watercolour of the view down Water Lane, Richmond, painted by Lamar Raine


Tango by the Thames

Loic Verrall writes: “My Grandfather, Eric Ruggier, who is 88, and loves dancing Tango. Well, with the restrictions of social distancing, he has managed to work out how to continue dancing Tango, with his dancing partner, Jola, by using a broomstick!”


Enjoying the quiet

Lisa Perez writes: “There’s no boating allowed on the Thames during lockdown, but at least we can sit on the moored boat and enjoy the quiet”.

Photo of dog looking out from bow of boat on Thames


Safe Distancing

Our first contribution was from new member Sandra Thwaites:

By 7am I am walking at a prompt pace along the Thames path to avoid other path users that increase in numbers later in the morning.

With the weather so glorious the temptation to stare at anything other than four walls has never before been so precious. Whereas most people are considerate enough to maintain a safe distance on the river path there are unfortunately, as with any restrictions on human behaviour, the odd few who appear to be completely oblivious to me. In such situations I take responsibility for my own health and move out of the way.

Janet Locke 1928-2020

Photograph of Janet Locke at Trumpeters' HouseIt was with great sadness that the Society learnt of the death last weekend of Janet Locke, who made a major contribution to the Society’s key role and work in protecting and enhancing the character and amenity of Richmond between 1986 and 2008.
Janet served on the Executive Committee from 1986 until the end of 2002 – including several years as the Society’s Vice-Chairman – and on the Conservation, Development and Planning Sub-Committee from 1986 to 2008.

Across those years, Janet led the Society’s important work in monitoring and commenting on development proposals located within the Society’s area of interest, involving careful scrutiny and consideration of many hundreds of planning applications affecting Richmond each year and drafting and submitting representations in collaboration with her committee colleagues on those specific proposals raising issues of concern to the Society. In addition and importantly, Janet also contributed significantly to the Society’s own conservation and improvement projects and in the assessment stages of its Annual Awards Scheme.

The Society owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Janet for her dedication, enthusiasm and wise advice across the years.

P.V. 26th May, 2020.

For details of Janet’s funeral service, please see here.

Richmond under Lockdown

How are you coping with life under lockdown? What has changed for you in these strange times of keeping your distance from others; shuttered shops, pubs and restaurants; controlled access to supermarkets; streets emptied of traffic and fewer people about?

Every cloud… Have you noticed the clearer, unpolluted skies enabling you to see farther and allowing birdsong to be heard in our gardens and open spaces?

Send us a photo, record a 1-minute audio or video clip, write a story (100 words max), on what’s different in Richmond since social distancing and self-isolating became a thing and a new normal changed us.

Photo of benches at Bridge House Gardens with Lockdown Richmond hashtagIf you use social media – Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – go to the Richmond Society pages and use the hashtags #lockdownrichmond and #loverichmond

Links to help you get through Lockdown

The following links may help to get through confinement to your home during the current health emergency. If you know of others worth sharing, please tell us.

Theatre, Musical & Circus

Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre (OT On Screen)is currently showing the play Amsterdam for free

London Theatre: Five theatres streaming productions to watch at home for free

The National Theatre is streaming one of its full-length plays for free every week

The Globe Theatre is streaming a recording of one of its full-length plays every two weeks

The Southwark Playhouse Theatre Company is streaming four of its plays at no charge

Andrew Lloyd Webber is making one of his full-length musicals available for free viewing on YouTube every weekend. Subscribe to his channel here

Cirque du Soleil has uploaded a series of one-hour performances onto its YouTube channel

Classical, Opera & Ballet

Classic FM’s best live-streamed classical music concerts online

Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall

Royal Opera House

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different opera on its website every night – free

The Australian Ballet is streaming one ballet performance every two weeks, free of charge

Richmond

BBC Sounds Radio 3 item about The Lass of Richmond Hill

Museum of Richmond temporary exhibition on Queen’s Road: 500 years of history

Other Entertainment & Education

Curzon Cinemas streaming (£)

Museum of Modern Art, New York: Free online classes from MoMA

25 of the best video games to help you socialise while self-isolating

Cooking & Catering

Some local restaurants are providing an online ordering and delivery service. Go directly to their websites for details.

Keep Cooking & Carry On with Jamie Oliver

The Barefoot Contessa Recipes

Fitness

Coronavirus: Stay fit to fight the virus

NHS Get fit for free

NHS Vinyasa flow yoga

Government

You can sign up to the UK Government daily email updates on the coronavirus pandemic

Sarah Olney MP’s blog

Help

Coronavirus conditions: what to do if you think you are infected

Richmond Council, including how to seek help from the Community Hub

Cancellation of all Richmond Society events
until the end of June

Following Government advice for what we should all do about the coronavirus pandemic, we have decided to cancel all Richmond Society events until the end of June. This includes our talks, walks and Summer Party.

It is a big disappointment, not least because much effort goes into arranging the programme. However, we are certain that the Society’s 1,300 members will appreciate it is necessary to get us through these uncertain times safely.

We hope to resume our events in July and will keep you informed about that and other relevant developments as they occur. Speakers for those events that have been cancelled will be invited to talk to us next year.

The health, safety and well-being of members and guests who come to our events is of paramount importance. We are grateful for your support for our efforts to keep Richmond special.

We have several ways to keep in touch: in addition to this website www.richmondsociety.org.uk, we have our quarterly Newsletter, online messages such as this one and our periodic News Bulletin to which you can subscribe at https://richmondbulletin.org.uk. Past issues can be reached from the website, as can an archive of Newsletters. We also have a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Keep well, stay safe and take care. We hope our growing community of people who love Richmond will be spared the effects of this dreadful disease.

Meeting Cancellation, Thursday 19th March

The Richmond Society’s Executive Committee has decided that in view of the deteriorating public health situation the only responsible course of action is to cancel our speaker meeting planned for this coming Thursday 19 March. We are sorry it has not been possible to give more notice and hope you will not be inconvenienced.

We had hoped to go ahead but thought it only prudent to err on the side of caution by putting the health and safety of our members first.

We were looking forward to hearing from Tom Chesshyre about his walk along the length of the Thames from source to sea, so we will ask him to come at a later date.

We hope you will not be affected personally by this terrible pandemic.

Richmond Society requests urgent holding direction for Manor Road development approval

On 4th February, Stephen Speak on behalf of the Richmond Society wrote to the Planning Casework Unit requesting that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government issue an urgent holding direction to allow a call in of the Mayor of London’s expected consent of the proposed Manor Road development. Here’s his letter.


Richmond Society logo

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write on behalf of The Richmond Society to ask the Secretary of State to place an urgent holding order, with a view to calling in the Mayor of London’s expected consent of a planning application by Avanton Richmond to build 433 residential units at 84 Manor Road, Richmond, TW9 1YB (currently a Homebase and Pets At Home stores).

The Richmond Society is a civic amenity group with over 1,300 members across an area of benefit that incorporates the site.

BACKGROUND

The original proposal for 385 units was refused by London Borough of Richmond (“LBRUT”) in July 2019 under their reference 19/0510 which cited failings under the NPPF, the London Plan and the Local Plan. Subsequently the Mayor of London used his powers to call in that decision and has taken over the duties of the Local Planning Authority.

On 22 November 2019 the developer submitted new proposals directly to the Mayor which are significantly different from, and materially worse than, those previously refused by LBRUT. Despite the 12% uplift in total units, increases in the heights of several blocks, a different community provision and the addition of a new block the Mayor is treating these plans simply as an amendment. There has been no further consultation between the developer and residents regarding the new proposals while administrative errors by the Mayor’s office has meant that previous objectors were informed late about the changes (or in some cases have not been advised at all).

As highlighted below we are concerned that, in the effort, to reach his affordable housing targets for London the Mayor has taken a pre-determined position over this development. His intervention is inhibiting proper scrutiny of these significantly amended proposals, ignoring multiple planning breaches and facilitating the unsustainable overdevelopment of the site. Details of the amended proposals are on the GLA website and can be accessed through this link: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/planning-applications-and-decisions/public-hearings/homebase-manor-road-public-hearing (or as a shortened version here: https://bit.ly/2RVE0qU).

A public hearing is not expected before February 17, but we are aware that the Mayor has given his planning consent very quickly after call-in hearings having previously agreed the s106 contributions with developers. An urgent holding order from the Secretary of State would appear to be the only way of ensuring that the developer’s amended plans are sustainable and can meet the NPPF’s economic and social objectives.

The key economic concerns relate to weaknesses in the transport infrastructure at this location while the social objective failings pertain to the negative local impact of the design’s height and mass. The principle of building homes on this brownfield site is accepted, although the loss of two major retail outlets is regrettable.

The NPPF expects planning decisions to ensure that developments:

  1. add to the overall quality of the area;
  2. are visually attractive as a result of good architecture, layout and appropriate and effective landscaping;
  3. are sympathetic to local character;
  4. establish or maintain a strong sense of place, using the arrangement of streets, spaces, building types and materials to create attractive, welcoming and distinctive places to live, work and visit;
  5. optimise the potential of the site to accommodate and sustain an appropriate amount and mix of development (including green and other public space) and support local facilities and transport networks; and
  6. create places that are safe, inclusive and accessible and which promote health and well-being, with a high standard of amenity for existing and future users and where crime and disorder, and the fear of crime, do not undermine the quality of life or community cohesion and resilience.

In refusing the original proposals LBRUT planning officers found failings under all these criteria and the revised proposals are worse.

The Building Better Building Beautiful Commission was appointed under the late Sir Roger Scruton to advise the government. Its report issued on January 30, 2020 recommends interalia:

Stewardship: Quick profits should not be taken at the cost of beauty and community: “Hence places, not units […], not faceless architecture that could be anywhere.”

Neighbourhoods: create places not just houses. “Too much of what we build is […] overly dense ‘small flats in big blocks’ (on brownfield sites)”.

The amended development proposals are exemplars of exactly the failings that the Commission is urging the government to avoid!

TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

Census data shows that residents of the local area are already heavily reliant on public transport for travel to work (at 47%).

Network Rail objected to the original application due to concerns over the anticipated levels of rail trip generation. They also expressed concerns that the uplift in rail users and pedestrians will significantly impact on the safe and efficient operation of the level crossing on Manor Road immediately next to the southern boundary of the site. We understood that the expected provision of CIL funds did not overcome the harms identified and it remains unclear whether the developer will adjust this through s106 funding for the new proposals.

The Draft London Plan calls for car free parking provision in all areas of PTAL 5-6. The site currently has a Public Transport Accessibility Level rating of 5 (“excellent”). However, this rating is entirely dependent upon bus services to Manor Circus (just north of the site) being maintained. In December 2018 the Mayor, though Transport for London, issued proposals for cutting certain bus services which, if implemented, would result in the site’s PTAL falling one notch. At PTAL 4 the site would no longer meet the car free standard and the proposed housing density is unsustainable. The Mayor should therefore be required to give a formal undertaking to retain a range of frequent bus services sufficient to ensure that the site’s PTAL 5 rating can be maintained in perpetuity.

LBRUT’s Transport Officer raised concerns over the validity and findings of the developer’s parking survey which was not undertaken in accordance with recommended methodology. Local parking stress was therefore understated and, despite the car free and CPZ proposals associated with the development the reasonable parking needs of its visitors, carers, trades people and similar is simply not available in the wider area.

HOUSING MIX

The draft New London Plan, as amended by the inspectors, sets a 10 year housing target for Richmond borough of 4,110 units. This site on its own would therefore be contributing more than a year’s housing requirement for the whole borough. This intense level of development, plus the recently approved proposals for the nearby Stag Brewery development on the other side of the South Circular Road, plus the nearby sites identified in the Local Plan, is adding cumulative pressure onto a community and physical infrastructure already struggling to cope.

The developer’s revisions mean that the plans now provide for 40% affordable housing and qualify for fast track determination by the Mayor without providing viability information. It is unclear to what extent Mayoral grant is supplementing the developer’s profit at the expense of the community.

Of the 40% affordable homes, 50% are intermediate (split between shared ownership and London Living Rent) with 50% social (affordable rent) broken down by units as follows:

Affordable Housing Mix Studio 1 bed
2 person
2 bed
3 person
2 bed
4 person
3 bed
5 person
3 bed
6 person
Total Units
/ Hab Rooms
Affordable Rent 0 12 21 15 19 8 75
Shared Ownership 0 23 12 23 0 0 58
London Living Rent 0 22 10 6 0 0 38
Total 0 57 43 44 19 8 171 / 483

The developer’s statement goes on to state that gross annual income requirements for the Shared Ownership and London Living Rent are as follows:

Unit Type London Living Rent Shared Ownership 2019/2020
One Bedroom £50,614 £62,765
Two Bedroom £56,271 £80,072

Richmond has met its housing targets under the London Plan and, while more genuinely affordable housing is welcome, the majority of the provision from this development requires that occupants earn salaries out of reach for many in local housing need. The plans are not providing enough of the social rent housing that the borough requires. With so many units directed towards high earners they will (of necessity) need to commute to the better paid jobs in central London. This will load incremental demand onto the already over stretched train network that is accessible from the station nearest to the development at North Sheen.

HEIGHT AND MASS

The developer engaged with Richmond’s Design Review Panel which reported in February 8, 2019 “that the development as a whole represents a jump in scale from the surrounding suburban context. The Panel feels that the proposed height of the scheme density is still overly ambitious.”

Against NPPF and local planning expectations the Panel’s comments appear to have been ignored by the developer and by the GLA. The amended plans have increased the height of three blocks which further emphasises the jump in scale to make the development proposals even more incongruous in the context of the surrounding area.

The unrelenting scale and mass is more commonly found in an urban context and is inappropriate for this suburban location. The nearby conservation areas will always restrict the maximum allowable height of surrounding buildings and cause this development to appear in perpetuity as a monolithic mass.

Vies showing the bulk of the proposed development in the context of the landscape overallIn their planning statement the developer asserts that “mature trees within the Royal Botanic Gardens World Heritage Site at Kew will prevent the amended proposals from being seen.” And “the uppermost parts of the development will be visible from the top of the Grade I listed Pagoda in Kew Gardens.” The picture above shows the view towards the site from the top of the Pagoda. The development will be clearly visible in this panorama as a clustered mass behind and to the left of the Towers. Three of the buildings in the development are equivalent in height to the Towers and so it is apparent that significantly more than just the uppermost parts will in fact be visible. Furthermore, many of the mature trees that the developer expects to block the view from Kew Gardens will lose their leaves over winter. We therefore disagree with the developer’s opinion that the visitor experience and significance of the Royal Botanic Gardens would be unaltered.

While not a locally designated view, the vista from Manor Circus to the greenery of Richmond Park is important and incorporates the spire of St. Mathias church on the horizon as a reference. This view will be blocked due to the height of the development.

Many of the objections raised by LBRUT to the original development are unaddressed by the developer’s amended proposals and have been made worse. In particular we highlight the following comments made by professional planning officers relating to height and mass: (paragraph numbers refer to the LBRUT officer’s report provided to the Planning Committee):

107. The site is not located within an area identified for tall or taller buildings and, overall, it is considered that the scheme fails to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the character and built form context of the immediate area, which the site forms a part.

108. The proposed height across the site is significantly taller than the predominant building height in the area. In particular, the 9 storey buildings in the centre of the site are wholly excessive in height, which will be dominant, overwhelming, unrelenting and visually intrusive, and will result in a looming impression, in particular from Manor Grove, Manor Road, Trinity Road and Dee Road. Nor is it deemed the townscape appraisal and visual assessments provide design justification to warrant such height. [The height as amended is increased to 10 storeys with plant on the roof]

115. The site is within close proximity to designated (Sheendale Road Conservation Area) and non-designated (BTMs on Manor Road, Trinity Road) heritage assets and the height, scale, mass and uniform design of the development would result in an imposing presence and a harmful visual impact on these heritage assets, ultimately resulting in harm to their setting in conflict with the NPPF and LP 3, LP 4 of the Local Plan.

158. The applicant’s Planning Statement identifies the need to protect neighbourhood amenity but does not adequately address considerations regarding the visual impact on surrounding properties. These concerns were expressed to the applicant throughout the course of this application and earlier pre-application process. The applicant has elected not to modify the proposal.

The officer’s conclusion in paragraph 158 rather reflects the developer’s disdain for the local planning process and for affected local residents. The developer has instead made clear from an early stage that they have preferred to work with GLA officers knowing that the plans would ultimately be subject to Mayoral approval. The GLA’s written advice to the developer to build taller in contravention of local policies is suggestive of Mayoral pre-determination for a political aim which would be an abuse of process.

DAY LIGHT / SUNLIGHT

The developer dismisses much of the Daylight/Sunlight impact on surrounding buildings (especially those to the north) because they consider the local VSC component to be atypical for an “urban setting” due to the underdeveloped nature of the site. This disregards the actual situation as experienced by residents and also the fact that it is a suburban site and should be treated as such.

Of great concern to existing residents is that the increased heights and addition of Block E will cause even greater harm especially to nearby properties in the area known as the “Trinity Triangle” to the northwest of the site. The developer’s own reports show their amended development proposals would reduce the proportion of windows in surrounding properties that comply with strict BRE Guidelines (VSC loss of under 20%) from 84% to 79%. Furthermore, residents’ analysis of these reports has highlighted that windows in some affected properties have been excluded – which understates the impact.

IN CONCLUSION

The amended proposals remain in conflict with the NPPF, the New London Plan and numerous policies in LBRUT’s Local Plan.

Paper based Mayoral affordable housing targets are being used to justify the site’s overdevelopment with unsustainable repercussions for the community. The affordable housing contribution does not include enough social rent housing and that should not overrule NPPF expectations for sustainable developments that are subject to proper scrutiny and comply with adopted planning rules.

We request that the Secretary of State issue an urgent holding notice to the Mayor concerning these amended proposals while he considers whether, or not, they should be called in for further scrutiny. We will of course provide further assistance and evidence as required.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Speak
Trustee