Friends of Watermans Park Newsletter
Issue 1, 9 May 2019
Welcome to the first newsletter of the Friends of Watermans Park.
The Friends Group was formally constituted on 29 March 2019. Its principal purpose is to help protect, conserve and enhance Watermans Park, its environs and access to the River Thames for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors.
The local residents who have formed the Friends Group envisage a vibrant community amenity which can host community events as well as an attractive recreational area by the River Thames for all to enjoy.
If you would like to join the Friends Group please take a look at the Constitution. There’s no subscription to pay, we would just like to hear your views and suggestions as members, or as interested members of the public, so that we can make a difference.
And if you have time please consider whether you would like to join the Committee. Please contact either Philip Jones, Chair email@example.com or Kal Watrobski, Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Friends Group Committee met representatives of Hounslow Council on 11 April to discuss the marina development. Steve Curran, Leader of the Council, Guy Lambert, Ward Councillor and Mike Sudlow, Director, Asset Management & Major Projects were at the meeting. The Friends Group has been in correspondence to follow up matters raised regarding the marina development and Park enhancements and after reviewing documents filed on the Council’s planning website.
These matters are discussed in more detail in this newsletter under the following headings:
- Enhancements to the Park
- Development Partner and Commercial Arrangements
- Operational Management Plan
- Heritage Assets
- Cycle Way 9
- Flowerbeds and Noticeboard
In summary, the Friends Group is concerned to ensure:
- Enhancements to the Park are seen as an integral element of the overall development at the Park that includes the marina. Detailed plans, when available, should be as at least as ambitious as set out in the 2016 planning documentation.
- The Council is open about the financial arrangements for the marina development which could and should be disclosed together with broad expectations of the financial benefits to satisfy a genuine interest that the negotiated contracts are in the best interests of the Borough.
- That the history of the site, both ancient and industrial, is drawn to the attention of users of the Park.
- If CW9 passes through the Park there are mitigating improvements for users other than cyclists.
The Friends Group filed an objection on 29 April 2019 to the Operational Management Plan (OMP) filed by the Council to satisfy planning consent Condition 13 and requested that the OMP in its current form was not approved. We are pleased to note that our concerns and those expressed by the River Thames Society have now been addressed. The Friends Group and the River Thames Society had sought to ensure that the mooring of extra-large multiple-storey houseboats was not permitted. Such houseboats would have dominated and blocked the view for users of the Park across the river especially at high tide and were not envisaged or permitted by the planning consent. The revised beam and air draft (height above water) are now in accordance with River Thames Society guidance.
The Friends Group does not express a particular view on the overall scheme at Watermans Park to provide a new marina development, associated parking and facilities and Park enhancement proposals. These have already been subject to consultation and planning consent granted on 19 May 2016. Simply, we would like to ensure all changes envisaged are carried out in accordance with the planning consent conditions. If it is not possible to comply with the planning consent conditions the development should not be started and consent should be allowed to lapse on 19 May 2019 giving time for re-consideration of the whole scheme.
Notwithstanding our comments in correspondence and this newsletter the Friends Group has expressed our appreciation of the Council’s efforts to make the Park a safer and more welcoming environment for all users to enjoy. Most notably, in recent months the Council has been able to remove vessels moored without permission for many years and derelict vessels. We also share the Council’s longer term aim that the Park be granted Green Flag Award status and commit to work with the Council to achieve it.
Enhancements to the Park
On 29 March 2019, less than 50 days before the planning consent would lapse if the development has not begun, a number of Non Material Amendments (NMAs) to the planning consent were submitted by the Council. These were approved on 24 April 2019. The stated purpose of the NMAs was to allow scheduling of works, in particular, to allow the commencement of the marina development in advance of satisfying conditions relating to hard and soft landscaping of the Park. The Friends Group was concerned that this might have the effect of postponing any landscaping and improved facilities for all users (new landscaping with distinct areas, paths suitable for those with limited mobility, play areas, seating and viewing points, tree planting to replace those lost to the marina development, new planting and etc.) beyond a reasonable timescale.
The Council in response pointed out a paragraph in Condition 17 to the planning consent which confirms that the scheme of hard, soft and water landscaping shall be implemented as approved prior to the first use of the moorings.
To be absolutely clear we have sought and await confirmation that this means that the enhancements as described below will have been put into effect and carried out before the marina can be used for residential moorings.
The hard and soft landscaping in the Park considered and approved by the Planning Committee on 12 May 2016 (P/2015/4055) were summarised as:
“Hard and soft landscaping throughout the remainder of the park is to be enhanced with a greater amount and diversity of planting, and more variety as to how spaces can be used. Active and passive use spaces are provided, with new play equipment and a performance area also proposed. In summary the improvements include:
- Retaining the existing entry location points into the park and creating a new one approximately halfway along the existing northern boundary;
- New planted buffer along the northern boundary with the road to reduce noise, dust and vehicle pollution into the park
- Creation of four new distinct but linked areas within the park including: an outdoor café space (for a pop-up style operator) and eating area, a space for performances, a seating and viewing area which seeks to maximise the attractive views across the river and a new play area based on natural play principles;
- Removal of raised beds which are expensive and difficult to maintain and replacing them with new planting and areas of grass;
- New avenue of trees alongside the existing riverside walk;
- New path system within the park to create a pedestrian friendly surface;
- New seating;
- New tree planting throughout to establish a new planted structure as well as shade and shelter with the park (and replace trees to be removed);
- New reed bed to replace the timber walkway that is in poor condition;
- Areas of naturalising bulbs to increase biodiversity and seasonal interest; and
- Gentle re-profiling of the existing slopes to create earthworks that create more interesting but useable spaces within the park.”
In the planning consent 00607/AM/P5 these enhancements were reflected in the drawing 589-L-01 Rev. E (Landscape Proposals) which can be found on the planning website.
The Friends Group appreciates that documents to satisfy some of the above including panning consent Condition 22 – Ecological (Reed Structure) and Condition 18 - Retained Trees (which actually deals with removing trees and would not be appropriate at all without at least the 42 new specimen tree planting detailed in the enhancement programme taking place) have been submitted and are pending approval.
The Council has said it would be happy to consult with the Friends Group on submissions that will be made to meet planning consent Condition 17. We welcome such an opportunity to comment and have asked when the submissions will be available.
Development Partner and Commercial Arrangements
As a public asset is to be leased on a long term basis to a commercial enterprise the Friends Group requested the Council to disclose when it expects to benefit from positive capital receipts from the arrangements, one of the Council’s stated objectives, and an indication of their scale.
The Friends Group also requested that the Council disclose the basis for choosing Thames River Moorings (TRM) as its development partner. We asked because we had noted that TRM had been overdue filing its statutory financial statements for the period to 31 March 2018 and only filed them on 2 April 2019 and those unaudited abridged accounts approved on 29 March 2019 show a loss for the period ended 31 March 2018 of more than GBP12 million. The accounts disclose that the financial statements have been prepared on a going concern basis, that the group are in the process of refinancing external loans and expect to receive significant funding in order to expand the business and the directors are confident the group will be profitable based on current projections. A subisidiary, Chelsea Yacht and Boat Company, is also overdue in filing its accounts to 31 March 2018. This subsidiary operates a marina in Chelsea and is in legal dispute with its boatowners.
The Friends Group accepts that the Council will be privy to information not publicly available and has come to its own conclusions about the most appropriate long term lease holder, development partner and operator of the marina. Any agreement should include protections for the benefit of the Council and current and future users of the marina and Park. If, for any reason, the construction work is interrupted once started there should be protections and rights to avoid long term planning blight.
This is the Council’s response on 26 April:
“The London Borough of Hounslow (LBH) and the Port of London Authority (PLA), signed a memorandum of understanding in relation to how joint projects based on water and land schemes will be conducted. You will appreciate that any jurisdiction that the council can exert ceases at the rivers edge and that all issues relating to the use of the river itself falls under the auspices of the PLA as the relevant authority.
A contract enabling the development has been signed and completed between LBH /PLA and Thames River Moorings (TRM) as our selected development partner. The terms of the contractual arrangements are confidential and considered to be commercially sensitive however we are fully satisfied, based on the commercial advice of the PLA in particular that the agreement will realise the maximum potential benefit to the partners both financially and in terms of the improvements to both Watermans Park and the riverside. The process for appointing TRM was undertaken by the PLA and LBH jointly and included detailed submissions and interviews before an appointed panel. There was considerable level of interest within the scheme and TRM were selected based on their existing expertise and detailed knowledge of the requirements of the river authorities.”
The Friends Group has formally noted the Council’s position although stated that we consider that a summary of the arrangements could and should be disclosed together with broad expectations of the financial benefits to satisfy a genuine interest that the negotiated contracts are in the best interests of the Borough.
Operational Management Plan
The Friends Group filed an objection on 29 April 2019 to the Operational Management Plan (OMP) filed by the Council to satisfy planning consent Condition 13 and requested that the OMP in its current form was not approved. We are pleased to note that our concerns and those expressed by the River Thames Society have now been addressed.
Given the recent history of the type of vessels moored at Watermans Park we considered it to be important that there are clear guidelines for the characteristic of vessels moored at the new marina. Condition 13 00607/AM/P5 indicates that standard height, beam and length standards for 25m and 30m houseboats should be included but does not explicitly state what they should be. The original OMP did not include any height restrictions at all and states the beam should not exceed 8m. Such requirements would not have prevented the mooring of extra-large multiple-storey houseboats dominating and blocking the view for users of the Park across the river especially at high tide given the proximity of the marina to the Park.
We now understand that the OMP has been approved on 8 May 2019 and that the beam is limited to 5m and the air draft (height above water) to 4m. Such requirements are in accordance with the River Thames Society guidance on houseboats and therefore acceptable
The Friends Group requested that a formal assessment of which heritage assets in the River are capable of being re-used is made.
The Council has indicated that river works are not under its control or ownership and are owned by the Port of London Authority (PLA). They also understood that the planning process did not identify any specific items that were considered worthy of retention but undertook to discuss with the PLA what items, if any, might be retained.
The Friends Group understand that once River Works are dismantled they become chattels belonging to the Council and has noted that planning consent Condition 17, even as amended, requires approval of the Planning Authority before works can commence in the River of, among other things, details of “re-use of non-designated heritage assets location at the site, where relevant.”
The Planning Committee document P/2015/4055 at 7.56 and 7.57 notes examples of what might be retained.
“7.56 There are non-designated heritage assets in the river with some infrastructure associated with the previous industrial use (gasworks and coal wharf). These remnants and are of minor significance, though they are a reminder of the industrial heritage of Brentford. Some of the existing timber posts in the river to be removed are capped with cast iron plates inscribed 'GLCC BD 1930' (Gas Light & Coke Co.).
7.57 Loss of these assets has been considered against the overall wider benefits to the character of the area from the proposals, and is acceptable with their loss significantly outweighed by the improvement to the environment from the more attractive appearance of the site and the ecological enhancements and benefits of appropriately managed and serviced moorings. Additionally, a condition has been recommended to require the careful removal of these plates and an investigation for their re-use or storage if possible. For example this could be within the site or on new mooring posts or a landscape feature, conservation in a local museum, or if this is not practical, their recording for posterity.”
The Friends Group consider that the site has an important history, as highlighted in the recently filed archaeologist’s report, and would like this to be drawn to the attention of those using the park. This could be though display panels and artefacts such as the cast iron plates referred to above from the gas works. We request that the cast iron plates, such as the one shown below, are retained for such a purpose together with other relevant objects as appropriate.
Cycle Way 9
The Friends Group requested that if and when the CW9 (formerly Cycle Superhighway 9) proposals are finalized we would like to discuss mitigating improvements for users other than cyclists with the Council at that time.
The Council responded that “the Cycleway Superhighway design was subject to public consultation in 2017 by Transport for London with the route to extend agreed as being sited through Watermans Park. Ensuring access for other users of the park is maintained will be an important consideration on finalising the design of the pathway and going forward TFL will publish any further consultation exercises within which all stakeholders will be able to express their views. Councillor Lambert has provided contact details for the TfL team working on the detailed design for CW9 and we will be happy to engage the Friends group as and when the design moves towards a conclusion. The LBH traffic team are also engaged in the design discussions.”
Flowerbeds and Noticeboard
The Friends Group confirmed to the Council that we are happy to ensure details of planned works, images and other content including Friends Group contact details for users are displayed on a new noticeboard that Councillor Curran agreed to arrange for the Park.
The Council has agreed to arrange for the overgrown flowerbeds at the western entrance to the Park to be attended to.
Should the Friends Group wish to organize planting and / or care of flowerbeds in the future we will liaise with the Council’s officers responsible for parks. As the Council pointed out, any activities will need to be agreed with the parks team to ensure Health and Safety and certain other considerations are respected.
This newsletter has been prepared for the Friends Group by Philip Jones, Chair and Treasurer ( email@example.com )
A draft was shared with the Council and, through the Council, with the marina developer on 8 May 2019 so that any factual inaccuracies could be corrected. No comments had been received by the time the newsletter was finalised. It should be noted that the absence of comments should not be taken as agreement to the views expressed in this newsletter. However, the draft was updated to reflect the status of the Operational Management Plan that had become clear by the end of 8 May 2019
Other members of the Friends Group Committee are:
Kal Watrobski, Secretary ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
Please let us know if you have any comments