The TRTG asks…. More than £1.2 million spent over three years, but what have we got for that amount of money?
A temporary café and children’s playground, and when they are removed in four years, what then? No future plans for community use?
As every local resident is aware, the Twickenham open-air pool site has a long and varied history of inactivity interspersed with abortive grand projects arranged or instigated by past Councils with the advice of their own team of consultants, often involving developers.
These grand proposals, having minimal public benefit and at a heavy cost to the community have been one by one rejected and seen off by public opinion. It was hoped that the change of Council in 2002 would result in a more sensible and practical solution for the community use of the site. At that time the only researched, illustrated and costed community proposal, at £650,000 for the whole site, that put forward by the Twickenham Riverside Terrace Group (TRTG) was rejected by the Council and their team of consultants as being impractical and economically unsound.
In order to concentrate attention on the soundness and practicality of the present Council’s proposals since 2002, enquiries have been made under the Government’s Freedom of Information Act to find out what expenditure has been made since 2002 on the Council’s temporary proposals which are now just coming to fruition. It is not known what proportion of the given costs pertain to any long term plans or indeed if there are any. What is clear is that for a future life of 4 years from June 05 the present public open space covering only a 1/4 of the total site has cost £1.2 million, the equivalent of refurbishing any existing swimming pool.
Twickenham Riverside: for the years 2002 to 2005 the Council’s costs are:
|Year 02/03||Budgeted for £200,000 and spent £319,000|
|Year 03/04||Budgeted for £742,000 and spent £374,000|
|Year 04/05||Budgeted for £368,000, projected to spend £368,000|
|Twickenham Riverside Short Term Scheme|
|Year 04/05||Budgeted for £155,000, projected to spend £155,000|
|Total expenditure from April 02 to April 05 for 3 years is £1,216,000.|
The Council inform that the 02/03 expenditure included some costs incurred under the previous administration. There are also be some additional indirect costs, such as senior management input where the Council does not account for such costs on a scheme by scheme basis.
The community proposals put forward by TRTG for the whole site for now and for future generations were rejected by the Council and their advisors as being impractical and not economically viable. We are now asked to believe that spending £1.2 million over three years to achieve a public amenity of a 1/4 of the site for duration of four years is evidence of a practical and economic Council.
Community use must be the priority
The pool site was originally bought for public walks and pleasure purposes in 1924, a description similar to that applicable to Radnor Gardens. The availability of the whole site to the public as public open space would bring to an end years of neglect, and honour the original purchase by a community spirited Twickenham Council in 1924 long before expensive consultants and advisors were heard of. The use of the whole site by the public as public open space is an achievable goal, and would ensure that what is now being created is improved not destroyed.
We suggest the equivalent of Radnor Gardens alongside a working riverside front as a viable realizable alternative. One that can accommodate change and one that would be able to be used by people of all ages. There is no reason why the current planting and seating for 1/4 of the site can not be increased phase by phase to cover the whole site. The Arcadia fund has already offered to match funding 50:50 to improve and restore other local sections of the river bank. What the community needs is for sufficient funding to be available to obtain the Arcadia contribution. That the Council is no longer strapped for money is evident by the expenditure to date.
What we ask is that the money is spent on the area to create a public open space for the community and not spent on more expensive advice, particularly as that advice to date has a legacy of commercial exploitation.