• Webcast and Minutes of the Council debate on the barge house, November 25 2014

http://www.richmond.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/153502/start_time/7380000

Debate starts at 01:34.

From the Minutes:

55. Debate on Opposition Priority Business: “The Gloriana barge house project”.

“Cllr Knight introduced his call for a debate, saying that the matter was topical and had resulted in significant amounts of Council expenditure. He stated that the expenditure had taken place without consultation, debate, scrutiny, or announcement, adding that the Gloriana project had only became known to Cllrs on both sides of the chamber because the Leader had mentioned it during a dinner event.  The Leader of the Opposition felt that the project had been pursued in secrecy without any desire for openness or accountability, particularly at the ballot box, as emphasised by a lack of published decisions and public awareness until after the election.  Cllr Knight said that the breakdown of costs that had been provided did not take account of the time Council officers had spent on the project.  He concluded by saying that he hoped the Leader would apologise and offer reassurances that there would not be any future abuse of process.

Cllr Fleming said that she felt the opposition were “miserable” and against any improvements being made in Twickenham.  She said it would have been an honour for the borough to host the work of a local master boat builder and that it would be of great benefit to local people.  She accused the opposition of lauding misinformation which scuppered any chance of the project coming to fruition.  Cllr Fleming felt that a majority of local people wanted the Gloriana to be housed locally.

Cllr Ehmann stated that Lord True had had over a year to prepare for a debate on Gloriana, but instead worked in secrecy.  Cllr Ehmann noted the results of the consultation which showed that around 8/10 people were against the Gloriana being housed on the Orleans Park riverside.  He accused the administration of being “covert”, with the Leader having made plans prior to the election, but choosing to keep any knowledge of them away from the public and the Conservative Group.

Cllr Samuel said that the sum of money that had been spent on Gloriana was insignificant when compared to that spent on the failed Twickeham Riverside project, led by the then Liberal Democrat administration in 2010.  He stated that it was correct to seek various ecological and financial reports before any firm proposal was formulated, especially as Gloriana’s operators had set out a detailed specification for any boatyard.  He concluded by saying that the Administration took account of consultation results, which was something he accused the opposition of not doing in 2010.

Cllr Roberts stated that the feasibility study had been completed during 2013 and so believed that Gloriana should have been public knowledge in time for the election.  He said that residents were disappointed Gloriana was now not going to be hosted in the borough, stating that this was the result of the Administration’s mishandling of the project.

Lord True said that he had ambition for Twickenham, after it had suffered many years of neglect as a town.  Lord True felt that Gloriana would become part of the nation’s heritage, so chose to use what influence was available to him to try house it in Twickenham.  He said that the operators of Gloriana had specified very particular needs for housing the vessel and as a result, a feasibility study was undertaken prior to a consultation which rejected the proposed site.  The Leader believed that apologies should be made by the opposition for circulating disinformation.  Lord True concluded by saying that he will continue to put forward creative ideas for Twickenham.”

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• Lord True speaks out on ditched Gloriana plans as campaigners express joy

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 . .

Lord True speaks out on ditched Gloriana plans as campaigners express joy [RTT Sep 19]

• Press statement

Potential borough home for Gloriana NOT to proceed

Earlier this year, following a feasibility study which considered various sites in the Borough, Richmond Council opened a consultation on a possible site for a home for The Queen’s Rowbarge, Gloriana, on the site of the former Orleans House boatyard and dock.

Though results of the consultation have not yet been fully analysed it is clear a substantial majority of respondents were opposed to Gloriana’s permanent home at this site.

It has therefore been agreed between the Council and the Gloriana trustees not to proceed any further with this project. The Heritage Lottery Fund application has been withdrawn. No planning application will be presented by either party. No other site is being offered or considered by the Council.

Speaking after the announcement, Cllr Pamela Fleming, Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “It is a pity that this beautiful craft, which was conceived on our river, will not find a home here. She could have been a great asset to future generations in Twickenham and the whole Borough. However, as the Cabinet Report in July showed, we always acknowledged the significant issues to address on this site, notably in terms of preservation of character, access and the construction period. While we believe that with goodwill most, if not all, of those could have been addressed in a pre-planning and planning phase, the controversy that has been aroused does not create the conditions in which that could be done. We have decided therefore to let the matter rest.”

Cllr Lord True, Leader of the Council, added: “Gloriana deserves to – and I am sure will – find a home where she is welcome and can be cherished for what she is, a working vessel serving charitable causes, a triumph of Borough craftsmanship, a future part of our national heritage and a tangible monument in centuries to come to the Diamond Jubilee of a great Queen. We wish her well.

“Given that our own master boat builder, Mark Edwards, created her, it was natural to explore the possibility of a home here in the Borough. I would like to thank Lord Sterling, Foster + Partners, the Gloriana team and all those who worked to bring forward an idea for public discussion and consultation. Many local people did support the idea of Gloriana’s coming to the Borough, but, sadly, in hosting such a unique and specialised craft, a number of technical issues arise, which limit the number of practical sites and require compromise. The Council has no current plans to conduct any further studies.”

Speaking on behalf of Gloriana Lord Sterling stated: “We were kindly invited to work with Richmond Council on a study to assess the feasibility of building a permanent home for The Queen’s Rowbarge, Gloriana, in Richmond. Sadly, the consultation carried out following the feasibility study showed that there is opposition to using this particular site. We have therefore decided to explore further locations along the river.”

• Potential borough home for Gloriana NOT to proceed [Council 11/09/2014]

• Shed scrapped!

[9:45am Friday 12th September 2014] Laura Proto, RTT Chief Reporter:  A permanent home for the Gloriana will no longer be built in the borough after a u-turn by Richmond Council. A consultation on proposals for a boathouse at Orleans Park for the Queen’s Rowbarge ended on August 31 and a report on the findings was due to be presented at a cabinet meeting next week.

This morning, the council announced that though the results of the consultation have not been fully analysed, it was clear a “substantial majority” of people were opposed to a permanent home at this site. The council and the Gloriana trustees have agreed not to proceed any further with the project and the Heritage Lottery Fund application has been withdrawn. No planning application for the boathouse will be presented by either party and no other site is being offered or considered by the council.

Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said: “Gloriana deserves to, and I am sure will, find a home where she is welcome and can be cherished for what she is; a working vessel serving charitable causes, a triumph of borough craftsmanship, a future part of our national heritage and a tangible monument in centuries to come to the Diamond Jubilee of a great Queen.

“Many local people did support the idea of Gloriana’s coming to the borough, but, sadly, in hosting such a unique and specialised craft, a number of technical issues arise, which limit the number of practical sites and require compromise. The council has no current plans to conduct any further studies.”

Councillor Pamela Fleming, cabinet member for the environment, said the Gloriana would have been a “great asset to future generations” in Twickenham and the rest of the borough.

She said: “As the cabinet report in July showed, we always acknowledged the significant issues to address on this site, notably in terms of preservation of character, access and the construction period. While we believe that with goodwill most, if not all, of those could have been addressed in a pre-planning and planning phase, the controversy that has been aroused does not create the conditions in which that could be done. We have decided therefore to let the matter rest.”

Gloriana boathouse proposals withdrawn in council u-turn

• 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.

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. . (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.”

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