• Minutes of Council, Tuesday, 22 July 2014

‘ . . 18. Public Questions

(a) Ms Mandie Adams McGuire: “The current consultation questionnaire on the Council website does not allow for a YES/NO button to the scheme as a whole and a question which asks, “Do you want the Gloriana in Orleans Gardens Riverside or not?”.  Would the Council agree to change/amend the consultation questionnaire to enable these responses to be considered?”

The Leader (Cllr Lord True): “I have considered carefully the point made here and have looked at the consultation. I don’t think it would be justified to start it all over again; I think question two asks very clearly if people think that the site is appropriate with answers graded from very appropriate which I would take means yes, to not appropriate at all which means certainly no, which I think a lot of people in the hall would agree with.  I think that is a clear question and allows for a clear yes/no answer.”

Ms Adams McGuire asked whether the Leader would acknowledge that this was a misleading consultation because of the statement on the Gloriana website, which in effect took the matter outside of the borough? The Leader said that there was widespread interest in the matter and he stated that the points made, including where they had come from, would be carefully considered when taking a decision.

(b) Dr Susan Burningham: “How can Councillors be sure that the disadvantages to the local Riverside community, such as loss of a peaceful green space, the additional volume in traffic and parking, the loss of protected animal and plant species incurred through the housing of the Gloriana in Orleans Gardens are outweighed by the perceived benefits to members of the wider community of Richmond Borough who rarely visit the gardens but simply like the idea of having a replica royal barge somewhere in the Borough?”

The Leader: “The points raised are obviously important ones. The purpose of the pre-planning consultation and, if it occurs, a planning process is actually to help weigh up such matters.”

Dr Burningham asked whether the Leader felt that the play area was being improved by the construction of a boathouse? The Leader said that the consultation was eliciting a range of responses which would be considered in due course.

(c) Ms Anne Keane: “Why, in these times of austerity, when so many essential services are being cut, does the Council choose to make over £1m of Council tax payer’s money available for the Gloriana boat project?”

The Leader: “Essential services are not being cut to enable the Gloriana project.”

Ms Keane queried whether this was an accurate response as services such as police stations, prisons and waste collections were being cut across the country?  The Leader said that the Council was responsible for only one of Ms Keane’s examples, waste collection and this service was not subject to any cuts.

(d) Ms Sarah Webster: “How does the council sanction consulting with residents in the borough on concept drawings rather than real plans and will the Council be in a position to produce to-scale drawings of the boathouse within its surrounding environment – specifying all dimensions – before the end of the consultation period?”

The Leader: “This is a pre-planning consultation. Detailed drawings will have to come forward for planning which is a later stage. It would have been quite wrong not to have some emerging conceptual designs prepared by the architect for consultation and that is what has been put forward.  It gives a very clear impression of the emerging thinking of the architects.”

Ms Webster asked why the architect had not produced dimensioned drawings, showing the scale of the proposed boatyard? The Leader said that some surveys were still being undertaken and comments on the proposal were already being taken into account. He added that the architect would be required to produce such plans if the matter was to be put through the planning process.

(e) Ms Margaret Hine: “In relation to the Gloriana proposal, what surveys (geological, hydrological, environmental, biological) have been carried between January 2013 and July 2014?”

The Leader: “A topographical survey has been undertaken and completed and an ecology survey is currently underway.”

Ms Hine asked whether the dates of the surveys could be made available?  The Leader said that he would ask the Director of Environment to make this information available.

(f) Miss Nicky Adams: “In relation to the Gloriana Proposal, Are you planning to use Marble Hill House and Orleans Gallery for extra parking?”

In the absence of Miss Adams, a written answer [has been] supplied: “There is the potential for future visitors to Orleans Gardens, as there is now, to use the existing local parking facilities offered at Marble Hill House and Orleans Gallery. We are not looking to introduce additional parking areas”.

(g) Mr Mark Brownrigg: “What sites other than those reported in the consultation has the Council examined and will it now please look at all other potential locations and give reasons for any that are rejected? If not, why not?”

The Leader: “No other sites were considered in detail at this stage, other than those identified within the feasibility study. The feasibility study does give those details. There was a scoping exercise which took a view, as I understand it, of other sites. If this site does not prove possible it will up to the Gloriana operators, not the Council, if they wish to consider other places.”

Mr Brownrigg asked how residents can be assured that the feasibility would be subject to fair assessment?  The Leader said that the feasibility study was competently exercised against the requirements set out by Gloriana’s operators and the Council. The resultant proposition would now be determined by the community.

(h) Mrs Martine Stickland: “Since Richmond Council do not own the Gloriana and will not have any say over its movements, how will they actively promote a tourist attraction that is absent for the greater part of the visitor season?”

In the absence of Mrs Stickland, a written answer has been supplied: “It is the expectation that an operating agreement will be entered into that will ensure a minimum presence for the Royal Rowbarge to be presented from within the boathouse. In addition to that, and to support the historical, maritime and educational benefit, there is also the potential for other rowbarges/vessels to be housed and exhibited from the boathouse.”

(i) Ms Mary Farmer: “Can the Council justify to the public their proposed expenditure of over £1million of tax payers’ money on the proposal to develop a new river park on Orleans Gardens?”

The Leader: “Yes, the council believes that Gloriana is an exceptional creation. It is a great work of art conceived, designed and led by one of our outstanding local craftsman.  It will become part of the national heritage and it was presented to the Queen to mark the Diamond Jubilee, an event that no one alive and probably no one ever will ever see again. This represented a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire the presence or enable the presence of that asset within the borough and that is what the Council has put before the public.”

Ms Farmer asked whether a business plan had been produced which showed the financial benefits, should Gloriana be housed within the borough?  The Leader said that the Council was not intending to operate Gloriana as a business.  Instead it was a social, charitable, educational and historical opportunity.  He added that a level of investment was needed and the Council had offered up to 1/3 of the capital cost.

(j) Mr P Bigley: “In relation to the Gloriana Proposal, which company or companies were engaged to make the feasibility study in 2013, and who actually paid them to do it?”

The Leader: “The feasibility study was done by Adams Infrastructure Planning Ltd and it was commissioned and paid for by the council.”

Mr Bigley questioned whether Cllrs were truly unaware of the proposal, given that the feasibility study was conducted in 2013?  The Leader said that the proposed site was judged by the feasibility study to be the most appropriate.  He added that this formed part of the Council’s proposal to better link Ham and Twickenham and promote better use of the Thames.

(k) Ms Bronwyn Baud: “Can the Council confirm there are no plans to expand the car parks at either Orleans House Gallery or Marble Hill House to facilitate more traffic visiting the Gloriana?”

The Leader: “Yes, I can confirm that. There are no more plans, we will seek no plans, there will be no more traffic.  In fact, we are launching a consultation with local residents to see if we can actually reduce the traffic problems which are already in that area.”

There was no supplementary question.

(l) Mr Michael Frost: “Please advise where the tender documents for the selection of consultants for the initial concept/feasibility study required to complete the ‘Gloriana Boathouse’ project proposals now received by the Council can be inspected or if no tendering process was undertaken for the selection of consultants,  please advise where appropriate Council documentation regarding consultant selection can be inspected?”

The Leader: “This was a specialist study involving a number of technical elements such as engineering, marine, tidal and other factors and in accordance with the provisions of the Council’s financial regulations and contract standing orders it was commissioned as a specialist appointment.  The feasibility study has been published but I am sure that other documentation could be made available subject to the normal confidentiality rules surrounding such matters. My view is that we should be absolutely as open as possible.”

Mr Frost asked whether the original enquiry was published as a public tender?  The Leader said that it was commissioned as a specialist appointment by the Director Environment.  Specialist knowledge of the area was required and the Leader defended the appointment.

(m) Ms Colette Chesters: “In respect of the ‘Gloriana’ proposed development has the Council considered that if it were to go ahead it could attract ‘professional’ environmental protesters as seen at (for example) the Newbury Bypass protest (it cost Newbury Council 24 million pounds in security, police and Magistrate Court costs) and can the Council justify this potential cost to Richmond residents if the development was to go ahead?”

In the absence of Ms Chesters, a written answer [was] supplied: “Thank you, this is a very valid point to consider going forward. These are initial proposals and it is helpful for the Council to get an indication, at this early stage, what the level of response is, what the issues are, what concerns people have and what support there is. Following this consultation, there will still be a number of stages to go through, including a formal planning process, and risks, including costs such as you describe, will most certainly be taken into consideration.”

(n) Mr Henry Boxer: “In England there are several Parliamentary Acts, and in particular the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which make it a criminal offence to damage or destroy or obstruct a bat roosting place.  Many bats are known to roost in the old veteran trees in Orleans Gardens, and in Orleans House and Marble Hill. Does the Council not agree that seven species of bats, including the Noctule, Daubenton’s and Pipistrelle, (several of which are rare), will therefore come under threat because of the Gloriana development and the subsequent need to light the bargehouse at night (for security purposes), which too will adversely affect bat feeding habits, and therefore their numbers?”

The Leader: “The question was an extremely important one and as you know Madam Mayor, bats have statutory protection.  They are very valued animals and the matter will be subject to all the usual careful environmental considerations in relation to those animals.”

Mr Boxer asked whether the feasibility study had pre-empted certain points, principally because it stated that the area was of little value to wildlife, in particular bats?  The Leader disagreed and said that an opinion had been put forward by the producer of the feasibility study. An ecology survey was currently underway which would highlight any impact on wildlife and make recommendations accordingly.  He emphasised that the process was in its very early stages and all comments and recommendations would be taken very seriously.

(o) Mr Tony Thorne: “In view of the fact that Gloriana will often be in use along the river, having made the journey to this secluded spot, will visiting tourists be satisfied with an empty dry dock and a stagnant lock?”

In the absence of Mr Thorne, a written answer [was] supplied: “It is the expectation that an operating agreement will be entered into that will ensure a minimum presence for the Royal Rowbarge to be presented from within the boathouse and this will be publicised to notify visitors of when Gloriana would be located in the boathouse. It is also the intention to display boards, provide educational materials and contextual information regarding the Royal Rowbarge that will be permanently displayed. There is also the potential for other rowbarges/vessels to be housed and exhibited from the boathouse.”

. . (19b) Cllr Roberts asked the Strategic Cabinet Member for Environment, Business and Community:

“What advice has she received from the Planning Department and the Mayor/GLA as to the acceptability in planning terms of a scheme such as is proposed to house Gloriana in Orleans Gardens given the general presumption against any significant built development in this location?”

Cllr Fleming, the Strategic Cabinet Member for Environment, Business and Community: “Initial planning advice has been sought from the planning department and the Port of London Authority. Cllr Roberts will have seen the feasibility study now and the reference in it to the London plan and the Council’s own Core Strategy and Development Management Plan.  Of course, whilst these policies do support protection, they can in exceptional circumstances recognise and support development. Advice has been received and includes the need to consider the type and the height of the construction, the views to Ham House, the relationship to the river, the replacement and rebuilding of the café and the playground and of course other matters, including flooding.”

Cllr Roberts asked Cllr Fleming when the proposals and feasibility study relating to Gloriana were first shared with her as Cabinet Member and her other Cabinet colleagues?  The Cabinet Member said that the Leader had already answered this question earlier in the meeting.

Cllr Linnette asked the Cabinet Member to confirm that this was a pre-planning consultation and what the next steps were after its conclusion? Cllr Fleming confirmed that it was a pre-planning consultation following the feasibility study.  It was added that the purpose of the consultation was to engage people about the conceptual drawings that had been prepared and seek feedback on them. The Cabinet Member stated that there would be more detailed plans if it was decided to take the proposal forward, which would be consulted upon as part of the full planning application.

Cllr Elengorn asked whether it was foolhardy to commission any work without seeking the Mayor of London’s views, because the Mayor had the power to direct refusal on any application affecting Metropolitan Open Land? The Cabinet Member said that the feasibility study did mention the London Plan.  She re-emphasised earlier points about the benefits of hosting a heritage asset.

____________________________________________________

. . (5l) Written question from Cllr Cardy to the Strategic Cabinet Member for Environment, Business and Community: “Is the cabinet member including insurance costs in the budget for Gloriana?”

Written answer from Cllr Fleming: “No, this is a matter for the Trust.”

____________________________________________________

• Sources: Minutes of meeting and Written Answers to Public Questions

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