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Dr Edis, CMS Consulting, for the Council
Mr Fearon Brown, Dearle & Henderson, for the Council

Dr Jonathan Edis

Dr Jonathan Edis, a consultant on behalf of the Council, looked at the issues in planning guidance PPG15 and whether the proposed short term scheme would preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area. He supported the assertion which was originally stated in the 1991 Marks & Spencers inquiry Inspector's report and confirmed by the UDP inspector's report, that the old pool building makes no contribution to the character of the area.

Dr Edis worked carefully through the arguments against retaining the building, citing the report for DCMS which recommended against granting it listed status. He referred to Elaine Harwood's seminal book, 'Farewell My Lido' in which she assessed 160 lidos all over England, and for which she had considered the Twickenham pool but chose not to give it a separate entry (Ms Harwood is an inspector for English Heritage, specialising in 20th Century buildings).

Dr Edis stated that it's a 'cheap and cheerful concrete and brick' construction, and did not pioneer the use of reinforced concrete. It does not relate to the riverside setting, or to the nearby listed building (the Church). The unprecedented public interest in 1930s buildings notwithstanding, he felt that the professionals - Ms Harwood, English Heritage, the Inquiry Inspectors - had not given a prescription of a need to keep the building.

There followed a lengthy cross-examination by Clive Wren and discussion of the building's architectural merit, conservation area practice, and the historical significance of the building - though Dr Edis conceded that it may be important to the people of Twickenham, it doesn't have a great historical significance in terms of events taking place there or people involved in events. Nor is it a landmark building: although he admitted that it is a robust building that could be restored, he stated the it has no features whatsoever to make it of historic or architectural value and worthy of retaining.

Significantly, at the end of Dr Edis's evidence, the Inspector ascertained that Dr Edis had looked at demolishing the pool building not in relation to the long-term scheme but only in context of the short-term one, which enhances the area because it removes blight. The Inspector also asked if there were a precedent: that if he took the view that the short-term scheme didn't merit planning permission, could he still grant permission for demolition of the pool building without granting permission for the scheme. Dr Edis replied that there have been cases where demolition permission has been granted without a replacement being approved.

Peter Fearon Brown, Dearle & Henderson

Peter Fearon Brown from the division of Dearle & Henderson which drew up the short-term scheme, spoke about the nature of the design. He said that he'd researched the area and knew the site (though he was unaware that the short term scheme would take up one fifth of the pool site; he thought the scheme was for a third of it). Key elements of their design were the linkage of King St to the riverside and the urban grain of the streets. The pool building represents a sterile and intimidating area, and he aims to enhance the Wharf Lane approach to the riverside.

He stressed that though Dearle & Henderson are the Council's quantity surveyors, they also have a thriving design group in a multi-disciplinary practice, and he has long experience working with local councils (Camden, Greenwich, Haringey, Kingston) to develop playgrounds and play areas, plus hard and soft landscaping, and water features.

He stated that the idea for the playground on the Wharf Lane end of the site came from the Police Crime Prevention Officer. He feels that the high mesh fencing provides better protection for those inside, and will have the effect of giving a view through the site towards the river.

He added that the retaining wall at the lower level, with buttressing, will look quite acceptable. (The buttressing had not appeared in the original drawings but emerged as part of the evidence of the inquiry.) The buttresses will enclose the existing pillars in the current pool structure. The concrete retaining wall will act as a vertical cantilever, and the buttressing is to be used for extra safety though he's not sure that it's necessary.

On questioning by Clive Wren, Mr Fearon Brown said that the list of plants for the site was in production, and they've had discussions with the Thames Landscape Strategy about using native species.

He said they had investigated and costed using the whole pool site, as an exercise and the results had been put to the council Cabinet prior to the short-term options being developed. They had not looked at the feasibility of retaining the building or putting it to temporary use.

To Ron Chappell's question of how many seats would there be in the scheme, Mr Fearon Brown replied that there would be two on the lower level and eight on the upper. Ron commented that the only advantage to most people of this development would be 10 seats.

Mr Fearon Brown stated that the timetable put the winter of 2007 for the close of the scheme, and he confirmed that Dearle & Henderson have been asked to look at the planned café and toilets.

Bill Double, for the Twickenham Society Group, said that though the Group is generally supportive of the scheme, we have reservations which were growing steadily throughout the Inquiry. We are now even more concerned about the limited nature and poor quality of the design.

He pointed out that the natural gradient of the pool site is 3 metres, and should it be used to provide terracing, there would be views of the river from all levels of the site. Deeper terraces would obviate the need for expensive retaining walls and buttressing; why not have terraces all the way up? Mr Fearon Brown answered that they'd looked at shallower terraces with minimal interruption, but there were issues with the rootspread of the trees, the archaeology, and existing surfaces (ie the concrete pool itself). The alternative had not been costed.

To questions, Mr Fearon Brown stressed that the height of fencing was for security, and that the café building would be within the fencing and therefore locked at night. Bill asked if it was seriously expected that crowds rugby fans would use the toilets in the children's play area.

Mr Fearon Brown also said that the planting within the play area would be low-growing with prickly plants against the fence and climbers up the back wall. The Inspector pointed out that the nature of the plant species could be covered by the conditions he imposes.

(n.b. this report is drawn from the notes made by members of the Twickenham Society Group during the Inquiry, and we are responsible for any errors or omissions.)

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page last amended 27/5/11