Two months after he announced proposals to bring the Gloriana to Twickenham, Richmond Council leader Lord True spoke to the RTT’s Tom Ambrose of his sadness as the project lay dead in the water:
Q. What prompted the early decision not to proceed with the Gloriana plans?
A. The council thought it would be a nice idea. The Gloriana is one of the beautiful works of art created in this country. There were those who said it was a done deal from the start and they were wrong. It became clear from emerging results there would be a significant majority against this site so why not take an early decision?
Q. Could planning issues have been resolved if a planning application had been submitted?
A. In the cabinet report, there were those issues that needed to be addressed. I think a number of them certainly could have been dealt with – for example, some thought was being given to the size of the structure. But we never want to impose something on an unwilling public.
Q. Do you have any regrets about the way the council handled the proposal?
A. I wish it had come out later. My regret is that, having heard the news they [Gloriana trustees] were minded to go ahead with a planning application, I blurted that out at the mayor-making dinner because I thought it was good news. We should have waited to prepare the consultation, allowing us to present the facts. It wouldn’t have allowed people who invented untruths to get their stories out.
Q. Is it true you turned down the opportunity to attend a cross-party crisis meeting with local MPs and councillors about the Gloriana site?
A. This was an idea from the failed Liberal Democrat candidate Dr Susan Burningham. She sent me an email late in the day. I think it was a spoiling move, not a serious move. It was a matter for the Gloriana trustees and I certainly think we wanted to see the results of the consultation – why should I pre-empt the results?
Q. Are you sad about the way it turned out?
A. Of course I would be sad to see it go elsewhere when it was built by our own Mark Edwards. I’m sad in the sense that it is a pity we could not provide it with a home in the borough it was conceived. But I am not personally aggrieved that I put forward an idea that didn’t come to fruition . .
Sir – The Richmond, Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act, 1902, is on the council website and in the Local Studies collection. I’ve been right through its 29 pages and checked that its name and the description given on the first page [An Act to confirm agreements for vesting common and other lands in the local authorities of the districts of Richmond, Ham and Kingston as public open spaces] are both accurate and complete. There’s nothing whatever in it about the Middlesex side. So the notion that it has some talismanic power to keep the barge shed out of Orleans Gardens seems to be wishful thinking, a fairy story for grownups.
Also in the Local Studies folder [32/03/30] are the 1902 LCC General Powers Act and a covenant. The Act is a mixed bag of powers, whose ‘Section IV Purchase of the Marble Hill Estate, Twickenham’ allows the LCC to purchase Marble Hill and adjacent land ‘to preserve the view’ – but only by agreement. Also, ominously, to provide boat houses. This power has now passed, via the GLC, to the borough council.
The covenant forbids development of the Haversham Lodge site; the council web site says: ‘a Deed of Covenant was entered into by Richmond and Twickenham Councils and Surrey, Middlesex and London County Councils in 1930. The terms of the deed were designed as far as possible to preserve the view from Richmond Hill by restricting the future development of the land to certain limited areas only. Compensation was paid to the then owners of the land for granting the right to enforce these restrictions.’
The terms of the purchase of the Gardens by the Council in 1926-7 were reported in the Times of October 29 1926. Nothing is said about further covenants for the Gardens but there were to be new ones for the House and Grounds which were to be purchased after the gravel had all been dug up by a ’lady of large means . . for her private use’ – Mrs Ionides of blessed memory – ‘to preserve the view’.
So the only special protection the Gardens have comes from the restrictive covenant imposed by the Cunard executors in 1925, described by Ron Berryman [Letters August 29]. The Council planning committee has to agree that its new barge shed counts as a boat house and is therefore to be permitted, even if it is many times larger and uglier than the Victorian original.
Christopher J Squire
See also on this website:
One of Lord True’s acolytes writes: “Few who witnessed the Queen’s Diamond JubiIee will forget the historic flotilla on the Thames, led by Gloriana, the Row Barge presented to Her Majesty on that occasion as a token of our national thanks and respect. Since then Gloriana has been seen many times in the Borough and Her Majesty has given permission for her to undertake charitable work and work with schools.
Gloriana is an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship, which was designed and created by a team led by our own Master Boat builder, Mark Edwards, recently honoured by the Queen. She is built to last for 200 years and will become part of the national heritage as one of the few visible legacies of the unique event of the Diamond Jubilee and a lasting tribute to a remarkable Queen.
However, Gloriana needs a permanent home and, as a working vessel, has to have a boathouse by the River Thames. Following a feasibility study the Council, working with the Trust managing the vessel, has considered various venues, and identified a possible site for that home on the site of the old dock and boathouse at Orleans house in Twickenham. Consultation on this idea began on 1st July. Sadly, before the consultation even began or any plans had been revealed certain activists distributed leaflets claiming that it would involve concreting over Orleans Gardens, build a car park and “Disney” tourist centre, open the riverside to through traffic and destroy a car park and playground. All these stories, which understandably alarmed many people, are FALSE.
The Council is pledged to maintain a cafe and playground and protect the character of these beautiful gardens. There will be no tourist centre or car park. Our aim to reduce current levels of visitor parking and traffic in neighbouring roads and we are conducting a survey with this aim, The project is still subject to consultation until 31 August and a planning process later this year.
The Council is proposing to offer up to a third of the construction cost of a wooden boathouse, designed by internationally renowned architects to respect the nature of the spot. Provided the character of our riverside is protected, then to give a home to this remarkable work of art, designed here and available to work here with the local community, which will last for future generations as a legacy of the Diamond Jubilee, would be an asset to the Borough and something to be proud of.
Please express your view, but do so on the basis of the facts, by going to www.richmond.gov.uk and responding to the consultation. Should our Borough give a home at Orleans House to the Royal Row Barge designed by our Borough craftsmen – or should we turn her away? Please have your say.”
Source: Richmond Borough Chronicle – published by the Richmond Borough Conservatives.
Answer Question 9 – where you are from
Answer Question 14 – on your postcode
Answer Question 15 and 16 if you want to be kept informed
Ask for receipt and submit.’
Consultation ends on Sunday August 31.
‘Our 3 local ward councillors have announced that they will be holding monthly surgeries where you can go along and discuss anything that concerns you … . If you want to meet them face-to-face, go along to York House, Richmond Road, TW1 3AA on the last Monday of the month, between 7 and 8.30 pm. Children especially welcome. And form an orderly queue!
[The next surgery will be on Monday August 25.]
If you can’t wait, you can always email them or phone them:
• Cllr Susan Chappell: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07764 194619
• Cllr Benedict Dias: email@example.com or 07583 179356
• Cllr Helen Hill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07813 027687
Or if you are feeling really old-school, you can write to any of them c/o The Members’ Room, York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham TW1 3AA. They work for us, so don’t be shy about telling them what you think. After all, they say: ‘No issue is too small or too large; if it matters to you, it matters to us.’’
• East Twickenham Village Newsletter, 13 July 2014 [lightly edited]