LOCAL RESIDENTS’ AND USERS’ PROPOSAL FOR MARBLE HILL
A COMMUNITY INITIATIVE FOR AND BY VARIOUS FRIENDS AND USERS OF MARBLE HILL
February 5th 2018
This document is intended to assist English Heritage and local residents and park users to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion where everyone can move forward. It is hoped that English Heritage will embrace this opportunity which is intended to be a positive initiative.
There was extensive negative impact on neighbours, users, wider community and ecology of the current planning application 17/1094/FUL, lodged by English Heritage, (now withdrawn) which is opposed by a 4000 signature objection, and this has prompted this proposal. It is put forward by local stake holders, residents and users who have joined together to produce a workable and more sustainable proposal acceptable to the community and suggesting English Heritage has more scope than currently expressed. It is supported and advised by specialist organisations.
This has involved expert assessment of the current application which is embodied in the attached supporting critique, now prefaced by this proposal.
REVISED HISTORY OF THE GARDENS
Following the campaign’s detailed historical study showing English Heritage was wrong on its account of Marble Hill’s landscape history, Country Life magazine has just published a revised history which appears to coincide with English Heritage’s new attempt for planning approval.
By looking at A Heckel’s etching of 1749 which shows The Park’s landscape much as it is today and John Roque’s map of Middlesex, 1757, which details Ham House gardens and Alexander Pope’s garden in Strawberry Hill, Marble Hill’s so-called ‘lost pleasure gardens’ are noticeably absent.
Furthermore, recent archaeological digs onsite lack evidence that Henrietta laid out gardens from the undated and unsigned plan. If English Heritage is successful in pushing forward with the gardens over 70 per cent of The Park’s woodland quadrants will be removed to make way for the new landscaped gardens.
1.0 THE PROPOSALS
The scheme embraces change by a sophisticated approach involving reuse and overlap of facilities; and seeks to bring wider and longer term benefits to the community with less negative impact. It is substantially lower in capital cost and reduces risk which are both major considerations for public bodies with public money. It has the scope to generate similar or greater income and offers a supportable, and more holistic way forward. The provision described here has been embraced by expert organisations and local people.
- Ecology Centre,
- Cafe with History and Nature reading shop
- Boutique Weddings
- Small Conferencing
- Club and Sport Meet room
- Arts-in- Nature Programme,
- Physical and Mental Health frameworks for all ages
- History of the 18th century House and lands
Ecology is in the Twickenham residents DNA. Richmond and Twickenham were world pioneers in the protection of green space from urban development well over a century ago, and the Borough has a story to tell of the Arcadia and river life and more particularly how modern urbanisation can co-exist with nature. The scheme places high value on the natural habitat that has evolved and also pinpoints unique historic aspects of the Countess of Suffolk and her Circle’s story which to date have been unaddressed but are very relevant to today.
We have approached specialist organisations that successfully run similar models outlined in our proposal:
- Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery as experts in corporate volunteering programme, carbon offset etc.
2.0 ASSETT AUDIT: LESS IS MORE
All multi facility sites require careful evaluation of existing facilities. Value of built envelopes should be weighed against any environmental impact and the true cost-in life of replacement or additions, and loss of open unbuilt land. Recycling buildings into new or multi uses is a key requirement these days as demolition and replacement has a high carbon footprint. Flexible management scenarios can demonstrate that a lighter touch is less invasive on the environment and more productive.
The current application exposes itself to high cost-risk, while inflicting serious adverse impact on users and community. All the evaluations conclude that the application is not a sustainable solution. Public bodies need to be risk-averse and leaders in sustainability.
This proposal seeks to examine what is already there and propose adaption and re-use while targeting a wider range of community applications. A park in the 21st century can and should be more than simply mass sports and history. It should address wider issues and offer wider benefits.
3.0 MANAGEMENT AND STAFF IMPLICATIONS
The proposal offers English Heritage management and staff a fertile base for expanding career opportunity, and it strengthens the organisation’s mission effectiveness. It offers the organisation opportunity for skill sales elsewhere. It is acknowledged by local people that it is not easy for the organisation to shoulder the demands of a public park in a very urban situation, alongside its core purpose of maintaining and presenting historic buildings. However this can be translated into strength with entrepreneurial potential. This proposal offers a template for success. The skill range embodied in this proposal is wider than before; it reinforces the rangers’ role and offers better opportunity for jobs and training. It also offers the organisation scope for wider promotion of management services in the market place.
4.0 SUSTAINABILITY AND LOW CARBON FOOTPRINT
The primary aim of sustainable policies is to ensure that future generations inherit a better environment and circumstances. At present sustainable policies barely achieve damage limitation. Environment is a predominant issue but it is not simply grass and trees; it also apples to debt, health and happiness.
The design approach described here has been based on minimising risk, understanding take-up and business profile, and recycling buildings already in the park. By doing this and maximising provision for all possible local needs from recreation to public health, the scheme achieves a far more sustainable low carbon solution than the application.
Aspects often forgotten in sustainability evaluations but included here are summarised in the following sections.
5.0 PUBLIC HEALTH
Public Health is the reason for, and continuing justification for, public parks. Children need fresh air and exercise in free form movement, adults exercise in lone and organised sports, a majority walk, many run. Some move by mobility assistance, some are deaf and blind to varying degrees. Depression is a common disease and the endorphin generation, and therapy of green space is increasingly proven beneficial in research. Health experts are unanimous that parks are good for health and society.
Parks must not concentrate solely on the fit. Our understanding of disease has increased and the role of parks can be more specific, particularly in the sickness, frail, and social areas.
Combating loneliness by encouraging informal socialising whether by pets or shared interest, with particular focus on depressive and frail conditions is one role. This can reduce the demands on social and health services. Likewise the reduction in traffic reduces harmful pollution and lowering noise and odour reduces stress and raises quality of life. These aspects are generational once a development is complete.
Adapted buildings greatly reduce carbon foot print by reducing trucking, and the off-site high energy of materials production. In a green setting, and very importantly in Metropolitan Open Space, reuse is vital as new building is contentious and constrained by Planning Policy.
7.0 GROUND WATER AND WATER TABLE PROTECTION
Parks play a pivotal role in the maintenance of local water tables. While hard surfaces of roads and buildings pipe away rainwater for disposal miles away, green land absorbs the rain and maintains the water table with trees and plants storing the surplus.
New build reduces impermeable ground cover (such as the applications’ proposals for a new restaurant), which affects long established tree root systems tapping into moisture, and maintenance of water tables. This is just one concern for example with South End House garden.
8.0 LOW ENERGY
Solutions can mitigate energy consumption, reducing environment harm and cost-in use. For example providing solar energy cells on flat roofs. This offers both environmental and cost saving benefits and also sets an example.
9.0 PRESERVATION OF PLANT SPECIES
Natural wild woodland, such as the copse quadrants on site, is now acknowledged as vital for preserving the genetic bank of species. and the understanding how the natural system works.
10.0 PROTECTION OF ANIMAL AND INSECT SPECIES
Endangered and protected species live in the park, such as the song thrush, stag beetle and lesser-spotted woodpeckers. More should be done to educate, and celebrate the treasure in the heart of the Borough (See supporting Report)
11.0 CONTROL OF WASTE
Rubbish and food scraps need careful elimination as they are harmful to wild species. Scraps are often invisible to the naked eye in general maintenance and is good reason for restrained catering
12.0 DOG WALKING
This activity results in daily use by a large core of people. Many meet at the cafe in Orleans Gardens which survives only because local users and residents fought for the Garden’s preservation from buildings just a few years ago. Interviews with dog walkers show high value placed on roaming in open space.
The value of Dog walking is given high rating in public health assessments.
13.0 CHILDRENS PLAY
This has both practical and emotive issues. The Park represents a generational use of space and is therefore identified in people’s minds as a fixed part of the community.
The dog-free baby and toddler area protects against dog faeces and also the robust play of bigger children. The adventure playground is ideally located at the back of the park and is then able in its semi hidden location to have ambitious play structures.
14.0 LISTED BUILDING SENSITIVITIES
The current application 17/1094/FUL has serious impact on historic and listed 18th century buildings. Montpelier Row is adjacent, where residents were a part of the life of the Countess of Suffolk and represent a unique example of 18th Century gentry’ houses recorded by Nikolaus Pevsner, the pre eminent authority. One of these, with a visual relationship to the park and Marble Hill House, is South End House, with an important 18th century garden and gazebo. It was the home where Walter de La Mere wrote of the view to the coach house and beyond. Another was home to Tennyson.
The current application demolishes the listed party wall and replaces it with a substantially higher wall and incongruous mono pitch roof with the wall clad in metal.
The proximity of restaurant kitchens is then immediately adjacent to, and visible from, the listed buildings and has further impact by noise, and odour.
This proposal cures these problems. The dining and kitchen will revert to the same current distance from the boundary.
15.0 TOWN PLANNING USE CLASSES
The building uses remain as before and Use Class designations apply as before. Consideration will be needed for overlap use such as tea served in the Main House, and weddings there, although this is incidental to core use and may be merely a licence aspect. The ecology use replaces some park admin spare space in the sports building. It is believed this remains a D2 Planning Use Class. The first floor of the Coach House has residential accommodation. This may be tied to park staff and is a park function as are the lodge houses.
16.0 BUILDING CONTENTS
COACH HOUSE CAFE AND COMMUNITY SUITE
It is important to note that current plans of the submitted application drawings of the coach house design drawings are seriously in error as regards dimension and areas.
This proposal recycles the current coach house with minimum external extension. The existing ground floor of the two-story element is wholly converted to cafe dining use with aspect towards the east and the cricket ground, and south towards river and House. It can then serve external terraces on the east side. The central arch is glazed as an entrance and a 50m2 glass extension is sited between the two existing rear wings. This is a modern solution in modern terms but with zero external visual impact in mass and style. It is not seen from South End House or the rest of Montpelier Row. All noise is projected eastward away from Montpelier Row. The kitchen is 23 metres further away from Montpelier Row and 12m further away from South End House.
Estimated cafe dining places internally are 30 at the south and 30 in the north portion which can be closed off for small functions and club gatherings (egg after matches). Estimated external dining approximately 60. The existing kitchen is re-kitted to modern equipment and expanded internally. The north wing and garage is refurbished to generous toilets with internal and external access. Servicing is from the north between the coach house and the existing timber stores.
The shop is positioned at maximum public exposure and footfall in a light and modern glass accommodation accessed via the glazed arch between the two wings. As a result English Heritage creates a visible promotional front. By accessing via the arch to dining or shop promotional material is part of the access before diners turn to left and right. This more integrated use will result in a relaxed and smart ambience with dining and easy chairs. In this space book clubs and children talks etc can take place.
The right hand wing comprising approximately 50m2 can be closed off for private function or for match and cricket club post-game gatherings. This will generate more income for the cafe without adding to the car visitor load on the park.
Existing stairs serve existing flat and club rooms upstairs. It is envisaged that this is a core for running art, music and drama festival, art club in conjunction with the ecology centre across the Park.
Existing park catering facilities elsewhere have been studied and they have indicated that this floor area and kitchen provision is practical for success at the proposed cover numbers.
The floor areas are: Ground cafe and kitchen = 208m2
First floor flat 48m2, Club/arts 48m2, office etc approx 30m2
Areas for upgrade of existing with redecoration and partial repairs = 297m2, new single storey build at rear between wings 53m2.
This would achieve total catering and shop provision of 185m2 compared with the application proposal of 214m2. It lowers impact, achieves a similar number of dining places and offers more community-based assets. It greatly distances odour and noise sources from Montpelier Row.
It is important to note that the submitted plans of this building in the planning application are incorrect.
The sport change building is a large and under used asset
The sport arrangements proposed by English Heritage are generally accepted, however a programme of sport intensification in the park is not. It is noticeable that additional sports pitches have been marked out within the park in recent years to the detriment of other park users. Tournaments must be carefully considered pending further evaluation as it raises a question of traffic capacity. Tournaments to date have caused jams in Orleans Road and organisers have been unhappy. Greater emphasis will be placed on broadening sports to children and older persons and disabled versions of these perhaps.
18.0 CHANGING FOR SPORT
The advice from London Football Association suggests the current changing is excessive if managed in modern terms. LFA recommend changing rooms shared by both teams to a match and staggered kick offs allowing overlap use.
It is also noted that the park pitch use by adults in organised games occurs often with bags kept beside the pitch and boot change there.
Using LFA guidance six rather than eight changing rooms with double lockers are demonstrated to handle 30 players with officials having dedicated areas elsewhere. The general arrangement proposed is as the existing building with no change. As a result main change suites, showers, boot change, wc/change cubicles and ability to offer unisex and dedicated sex options with security and privacy, remain. Disabled change is accommodated.
This results in 310m2 of changing facilities, almost all as existing.
The balance of the change, i.e. two change rooms is brought into use with the proposed ecology centre as described below.
19.0 RANGERS AND ADMIN ACCOMMODATION
The rear of the current change building is already occupied by rangers and other English Heritage staff, accessed from the yard. This is kept in place but an overlap of use is proposed whereby the meeting room can also be used by arrangement for ecology and possibly sport teams. This proposal can be adjusted.
The work accommodation would be approximately 55m2: two offices each of 18m2 and a meeting room. Sizes required per person in offices has shrunk since the building was built as filing cabinets have disappeared and laptops are used. Current space allowances even without hot-desking results in a provision under this proposal that could accommodate 8 staff. There is additional accommodation at first floor in the coach house.
The current plant installation of approx. 35m2 with oil storage is worth a comment. It would be a far more sustainable solution to use the flat roof for solar panels and use a gas tank and boiler. Possibly releasing an additional area for ecology use or as new ranger use or secure use. Clearly there is a need for secure park vehicle storage but this, these days, is uneconomic taking “habitable” footprint. A purpose built secure vehicle store is easily and cheaply provided. The results in the building being put to maximum human use and cost effectiveness.
20.0 ECOLOGY CENTRE
It should be emphasised that Park admin and ranger/maintenance accommodation is not shrunk so much as partly reconfigured and so extending the admin, promotional and ranger roles.
The location and history of the area and in particular the park with the adjacent river and wildlife offer a unique example of man co habiting with nature.
The area was the first public campaign in the world to recognise the value in an urban environment of green space. The successful symbiosis, man in nature continues from the 18th century to today with ever increasing lessons for current and future generations.
The floor area of the unit would be 180m2. The space arrangement within the existing building would be:
Entrance hall display 15m2
Theme area 1 12m2
Theme area 2 12m2
Large display gallery 35m2
Plus toilets etc. Provision for children’s’ toilets may be needed.
The subject matter would encompass:
- Symbiosis: The successful cohabitation of humans and wild species
- River Life: The cycle of tides, with mammals, frogs, fish, insects/larvae, where they lurk, nest, forage. The importance of reeds and trees etc to rivers.
- Feeding Cycles: Such as bat foraging the dung beetle in Petersham Meadows, the insects on the rising warm area over the meadows and water.
- Animal Watch: Cameras and night traps to monitor foxes, river rats, etc.
- Education on the invisible: “Secret Life” slow worms, etc
- Regeneration: how wild wood nurtures life and the role of roots and mycelium fungi in spreading nutrient.
- Pollination:g. Bees and their importance etc
- Nature management: the story of the taming of the Thames by banks, locks and weirs in the 19th/ 20th centuries. The river related craft work, the river boats and craft such as coracles.
- External animal therapy: And exhibits around the existing kitchen garden.
- The story of food: linked to kitchen garden. ” Where do sausages grow?”
- Links to local enterprises: such as Twickenham Studios for filming, and volunteer help.
21.0 TEA EXPERIENCE
The repairs alterations and displays to the existing house are generally applauded send supported. However the opinion is that more could be made of this asset.
A Tea experience in the Ground floor reflects a growing trend in London. It capitalises on the known history of the house that was renowned under the Countess of Suffolk for its catering and in particular dairy food.
A light touch with just dining furniture would offer teas in the Terrastyle Room and perhaps Dining Parlour and Breakfast Parlour. In summer service would extend to the river-view terrace at the south. The hall and upper and lower floors would remain as proposed. A mini kitchen might be sited in the mess room and pre prep food can be delivered.
22.0 LIMITED BOUTIQUE WEDDINGS – subject to impact study on buildings and traffic
Expert opinion in the Borough wedding industry sees better potential for boutique style weddings in the house. More upmarket but lower impact. Overlapping with the Tea experience weddings might be achieved on set days eg Saturdays and Wednesdays for example and could be through the year. The location is ideal for winter weddings that are unsuitable elsewhere, selling beauty and historic ambience.
23.0 ART IN NATURE
Twickenham fails to celebrate properly its historic artistic legacy. From Turner painting and living nearby, to poets such as Alexander Pope and writers such as Horace Walpole, and especially Tennyson and Walter de la Mere living in Montpelier Row. Not to mention Dickens’ vivid river descriptions.
Marble Hill is the ideal location to celebrate this by an annual arts festival, and a permanent arts club covering art, media, visual arts, writing and drama. By input from local organisations a net of interactive volunteer support can organise art in nature, whether drawing classes, nature hunts, photography and film, summer performance in drama and music by amateurs.
Extensive research over more than a year by experts has corrected the received wisdom of Marble Hill’s landscape history. Going back to original sources of letters and biographies of the time and matching them to eyewitness accounts and etchings by artists of acknowledged accuracy. In addition land management calculations factored into the necessary grazing and food production of the time support the many tales by Henrietta’ Howards friends of huge emphasis on food and dairy. While many friends jostled to produce designs she ran entertainment dining. There is no justification for a simulated 18th century design of no provenance that is now probably never installed. Indeed applying that design solution is very expensive, loses natural habitat and misses an opportunity.
The open parkland with dense wild tree copses is the true historic landscape. It is proposed that this should be capitalised to educate the population in the importance of nature. There is as outlined above another story to tell and to use to educate and develop revenue.
Notwithstanding the above, there is no reason why, between preserved wild copses, the sloping terraces and water meadow below, are not landscaped in a theme and it is suggested that rather than trying to replace and destroy the copses, English Heritage might create 18th century style between them, particularly as this would appeal as a focus to Tea on the terrace and boutique weddings. With the right design and control of dogs there is no need to fence this.
Opinions on what is right management are changing and there is increasing acknowledgement that wild habitat should be left alone. In this case the four copse quadrants are unique in the urban environment of this part of London in having no footfall and being a self generating wood. This is recognised as highly valuable and Oxford University has a special unit monitoring such areas. They provide important habitat for badgers, bats, insects and beetles for example.
In this particular case Natural England experts have acknowledged resident badgers, while bats and beetles are noted.
25.0 ONE O CLOCK CLUB
The Club is a vital part of the community and greatly assists parents particularly lone or stressed parents. It is therefore seen as a vital social support instrument that actually offsets possible NHS and Council spend. No change is proposed.
It is also seen as important to promote this side of the park and the creation of a hub of ecology, one o’clock, adventure play, sports change, kitchen garden and and external ecology setting would be healthy and attractive.
The one o clock club buildings with their mono pitch roofs and axial relationships are good examples of 1970’s social architecture and should be regarded as heritage assets in waiting.
26.0 CHILDRENS PLAY
The current adventure play area is well sited and does not impinge by design or activity on the rest of the park and the historic building, its proximity to car park, sports change, proposed ecology centre and kitchen garden creates a sensible complex where people and children are able to move between.
The English Heritage planning application proposes another themed play area near the House. This is unnecessary duplication and inappropriate to the House. The assumption that parents will buy food and sit and watch play at a themed area misunderstands the parental activities at different child ages. The current baby crawl area on grass protected from dog faeces is in the best location currently.
As a result there is no proposal to change or resite current provision.
27.0 JOB CREATION AND TRAINING
The English Heritage planning application promoted jobs, apprentices and training in the restaurant. Following local protest the catering description was back tracked to a cafe. However there is no town planning distinction in Use Class. A full restaurant carries disadvantages, as a larger kitchen is required and this is reliant on a very varied and broad main meal production, with all its attendant diner, supplies and staff parking. This broad and heavy duty catering may be appropriate for apprentices but the reduction to cafe as now described by English Heritage in public consultations offers little if any scope for apprenticeships.
By contrast this proposal shifts the emphasis to other uses where training can apply: event organisations, weddings, education, land management, sports management, ecology. It spreads these over the whole park.
28.0 TRAFFIC AND POLLUTION
The report appended demonstrates that the high car use for events exceeds the capacity of the car park and cannot rely on excess parking on the roads as this is already acknowledged as “high stress” by other expert analysis, for example the school and supermarket traffic studies for the new Lidl development nearby.. The English Heritage application cannot use any spare capacity already intended to be taken up by a previous approval.
Richmond Road is a low pollution designated walking route and yet the pollution monitoring shows it already exceeds safe designated levels.
The shift in these proposals to smaller events on a regular basis removes the peak demand and pollution. Smaller boutique weddings are calculated to generate far fewer cars, of the order of 30 which dovetail into existing capacity.
Large events if confined to 2-3 would be so intermittent that, they can be classed very special circumstances. They cannot be classed as traffic free as, even under the current management, large numbers of taxis operate from a pool on the grass.
29.0 CAR PARKING
As a long term plan the park could operate permission for first, petrol only vehicles, then just hybrid or electric. Charge points should be added.
30.0 WALKING FOR ALL
There is little national or Borough promotion of the health benefits of walking. In my role as Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health I have developed scenarios for the frail and dementia sufferers, and the conjunction of movement and space is very therapeutic physically and mentally. When one considers that cycling tends to be by a majority of white, males of around 20 to 40 there is a need to address the health needs of the vastly more numerous parts of the population. As people know, it is impossible to put the weekly shop on a bike and difficult to keep a bike in a flat. Studies in the urban areas of the USA have shown that encouragement of walking mends communities because people have time to stop and talk and watch. You do not engage with others in a car (and only to a lesser degree on a bike) the experiment showed crime dropped, mental health improved physical health benefited and loneliness was combatted. Older persons, the frail and the partially disabled should have the opportunity for exercise. For many bike riding is difficult. It is now a substantiated fact that walking, especially in minimum brisk episodes is better than running and cycling and is inclusive of all the population
Modern technology makes it possible to have electronic aids for the blind and the confused and this would allow route following. The same technology could be used for nature trailing with commentary and guidance.
We are well aware of the encouragement of cycling and there should be consideration of racks at certain points, and as the park already has notices for CCTV there is every reason to link to this system. There would, I am sure, be enthusiasm for a cycle hire facility for children and adults, with routes along the river being a major attraction. Such a route would bring custom to Church Street and would link to other historic sites and over the river to Ham and Richmond Park There is potential to ride for many miles in green space via Richmond Park and on to Wimbledon Common and Bushy Park. This might be run in conjunction with the ferryman or beside the café out of the yard at the rear. It is a superb location to run such a scheme. Such an enterprise is no cost as like the Royal Parks, it is subcontracted.
32.0 EXERCISE TRAIL AND NATURE TRAIL
The health potential of movement can be encouraged by an exercise trail around the park for the amateur, elderly with simple challenges at different points (steps, distance, small jumps etc) In the past the Borough installed a small weights and exercise in parks on a temporary basis. This route can follow a nature trail.
33.0 THE BUSINESS PLAN
Commercial activity to assist English Heritage upkeep costs is shifted to smaller size, greater frequency, and higher margin. It is selling a unique ambience of History, Nature and River. It sets itself apart from the wedding competition among the hotels for large numbers.
There is a distinct and unique brand to sell: Marble Hill can be synonymous with bespoke, high end, and personal.
It is encompassed in Teas with an historic legacy, weddings in historic surroundings, conferencing and meetings for companies on a personal level.
The ecology element comes with a virtually free building subject to upgrade and sports changing already exist.
The cafe no longer runs the high risk of dealing with the danger to specimen trees and listed wall and provision of a very large new building
The English Heritage Planning Application has served as a springboard for this proposal which has local support and offers a broader and more rewarding business plan. The existing submitted scheme gave focus for local people and users in understanding what was and was not acceptable. It is hoped this proposal will broaden the possibilities and assist English Heritage in gaining an approval quickly so the community and the organisation can move on.
It latches onto a promotion of the Borough’s ecology, arts and history legacy, provides a valuable public health role and a special natural history experience for unique Thameside land.
Martin Habell Dip Arch ATP RIBA FRSPH Chartered Architect
The author is adviser to large land holding organisations on asset audit; architect, land planner and Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health. Currently advising Church of England and London Borough of Hounslow, Various Universities, and representing the Arts and Humanities Research Council PhD Research programme.