We are please to say that English Heritage has listened to the community resulting in a withdrawal of the previous controversial planning application for the Marble Hill Revived scheme.
It will now begin to consult park-goers and other groups and we are hopeful a better solution can be found. We believe English Heritage will resubmit in September this year.
The £6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund is secured on the basis that English Heritage’s planning application is given the green light.
We have been asked to join the steering committee and will keep you updated with any developments. Having listened to hundreds of park-goers over the last six months we know there was real concern regarding the fencing-off of a large section of The Park, the large-scale tree removal scheme, sports intensification, the proposed mega cafe and suggested traffic increase. As such we will continue to listen and aim to work together with locals and English Heritage to find workable solutions and secure the park for the future.
Who is running your campaign and what is your agenda?
Collectively, Love Marble Hill Park, are everyday park-users who visit most days with our families and friends. We love The Park for its tranquility, open spaces and see it as the beating heart of our community. It was the people of Twickenham who saved The Park from development in 1902 and we would like to see it preserved for generations to come. We simply ask that English Heritage’s current planning application is rejected and revised.
Won’t English Heritage secure The Park’s future by making money?
The table above shows The Park still running at a loss longterm after £6m in lottery funding. Furthermore, running costs for The Park rise above £1m per year after the project is complete. Currently Marble Hill costs around £350,000 per year to run. If English Heritage doesn’t manage to attract forecasted visitor numbers the concern is that The Park will be left even more vulnerable.
Have you tried talking to English Heritage?
Over the last year we have made every effort to open up lines of communication with English Heritage. Recently we were asked to sit on The Steering Committee. This is an important step giving us a platform to work together with English Heritage.
English Heritage has also invited us to discuss Love Marble Hill’s Proposal in the coming weeks with senior management. We see this as a step in the right direction and we hope to outline our community vision for The Park and talk through our proposal.
Doesn’t the park have to pay for itself and won’t this scheme deliver that?
The Park currently costs approximately £230,000-280,000 a year to run. Love Marble Hill’s park proposal has been drawn up with this in mind. Our vision is to make The Park pay for itself through a volunteering programme, low-maintenance revenue solutions through off-peak boutique weddings and other private small-scale hire of Marble Hill House and through a quality cafe serving locally sourced food wherever possible.
Why is Love Marble Hill’s scheme different?
We have engaged with professionals in their fields and used local knowledge and understanding of The Park to draw-up a new proposal for Marble Hill which is hopefully appealing to park users.
It encourages more community involvement, is low impact and running costs are estimated to be low.
At the centre of this proposal is a new Ecology Centre, this educational and community lead initiative would greatly enhance the use of the park. The cafe plans would be scaled back to fall within the existing footprint of the current Coach House Cafe, refurbishing the space available to make a beautiful cafe with community space supplying fresh local produce where possible. Sport would be encouraged and facilities upgraded. Marble Hill House would have a complete refurbishment, limited private hire could run throughout the year within the house having little impact on other park users.
The woodland quadrants would be retained introducing a new programme of woodland management in doing so many protected species would benefit as would future generations.
Marble Hill House is beautiful and deserves an upgrade, where does the campaign stand?
The house is a cherished community asset and one of the few remaining Palladian Villas lining the Thames. We fully support its renovation and ongoing maintenance and would welcome this as part of a revised scheme.
English Heritage own The Park. Can’t it do whatever it pleases?
Marble Hill Park is designated Metropolitan Open Land and a public park, English Heritage are simply the custodians.
Aren’t you misleading people about the number of trees to be felled?
English Heritage confirmed that 347 trees were planned for removal in its original planning application. Over 70 per cent of the woodland quadrants were earmarked for the chop and 21 much larger specimen trees from around The Park were to be removed.
It is our hope that we can work together with English Heritage to agree upon a low-impact woodland management scheme for the quadrants and encourage a low-maintenance natural planting.
Are the woodlands really being removed and does it matter?
Of the 601 trees that make up the woodland quadrants surrounding Marble Hill House 326 were to be felled and a further 97 coppiced (an ancient procedure whereby the tree is taken down to a stump). That equates to over 70 per cent of the trees removed from the woodlands.
Our Wildlife Report for the woodlands shows numerous protected species rely on these copses for habitat and foraging including; badgers, mistle and song-thrush, lesser-spotted woodpeckers, owls, bats, stag beetles and many more. Indeed, the canopy is an essential part of the famous bat corridor, highlighted in The Thames Strategy and by The Council.
English Heritage say the copses are self-seeded and therefore unimportant. However, secondary woodland plays a vital role for the borough’s biodiversity which is highlighted in the Local Biodiversity Action Plan.
What is wrong with English Heritage’s Suggested Landscape Scheme?
The Council say,
‘The landscape scheme needs to be revised to address the importance of the wildlife corridor that is established along the area of the proposed West Grove. The proposal involves removal of a number of mature trees (the crack willows etc) along the West Grove that will potentially sever the tree corridor that the bats use to get to the river to feed which would be detrimental (e.g. tree cover provides protection from light/predators, insect feeding grounds). Severing the effectiveness of this wildlife corridor will potentially impact bats moving around the site and travelling to/from feeding sites.’
Hasn’t English Heritage said it’ll plant more trees?
Only after The Council told them to last April, The Council told English Heritage,
‘The scale of tree removal on this site is such that a commitment to re-planting is required to mitigate for the loss of amenity. Currently the detailed planting plans are to be developed in consultation with park users as part of a long-term strategy. Policy DM DC4 states that there will be a presumption against schemes that result in a significant loss of trees, unless replacements are proposed. The removal of trees is recognised in Policy DM DC4 as part of a historic restoration scheme but without a commitment to replacement trees, this proposal is not currently acceptable.’
To date English Heritage has been unable to release its proposed replanting scheme.
What is wrong with English Heritage’s ecological survey?
The Council wrote to English Heritage last April and said,
‘The Park is a Site of Local Nature Importance, where biodiversity and opportunities to create new habitats is encouraged [LDF Core Strategy 2009 184.108.40.206]. The Council’s Ecologist has recommended refusal, following concerns in respect of the absence of details of appropriate protected species surveys and the proposal (e.g. details for woodland landscaping).’
English Heritage’s Ecology Report from 2015 failed to flag various protected species in the park, specifically in the woodlands. We have commissioned an independent expert to write a report regarding one of the protected species.
Archaeological digs over the summer went ahead without a license. On the advice of Natural England The Wildlife Crime Unit were informed.
Wouldn’t a new café be a wonderful thing?
We agree that many park facilities need attention. However, the proposed scale of the new modern café is alarming. If you’ve ever popped in the Stables Café off-season you’ll be aware that it doesn’t get a lot of footfall and so why the need for a 140 seat café?
How will this impact houses close by; deliveries, smells, fumes, litter and noise not to mention extra stress on our local infrastructure. Furthermore, the heritage listed buildings on Montpelier Row will be heavily impacted by this and its seems wrong to restore one listed building to the detriment of others.
Haven’t English Heritage got a survey from 1752 showing the gardens as they were during Henrietta’s time?
There is no ‘survey’. There’s an undated, unsigned garden plan that was deposited at the Norfolk Records Office in 1991. It has not been linked to either Alexander Pope or Charles Bridgeman and’ ‘the gardens’ do not appear in any engraving or paintings from that period nor do they appear on John Rocque’s renown map of 1745 which shows intricate details of Ham House Gardens and Pope’s garden in Strawberry Hill among others.
Have you read the two archaeological reports, aren’t they conclusive?
The archaeologists were given a key of features to locate from the undated and unsigned garden plan. It was their job to prove the garden plan was laid out during Henrietta’s time. The first archaeological report was largely inconclusive. They found something that might have been the ninepin bowling alley but this was not certain plus a couple of bits of pottery and a drain together with the bottom of one of today’s rugby posts. They haven’t even located the second grotto.
We would welcome the results of last August’s archaeological digs which have yet to be released.
Why do people keep saying parts of the park will be fenced off?
English Heritage has confirmed it would like to create a dog-free area between the house and the river, the only part of the park without a sports pitch. This would also enable English Heritage to hold private events within our public park. Once this area is permanently fenced off it becomes easier to exclude the public and run private, corporate events.
English Heritage say it will re-consult once The Council gives the green light for the scheme but we are not reassured by this and there will no safeguards in place to prevent it being pushed through. We believe this is all about the fencing off of the area and not about keeping out dogs!
The park looks unkempt what’s wrong with a bit of TLC?
Again, we acknowledge Marble Hill Park needs attention. We all welcome a café upgrade and new sporting facilities. No one wants to see The Park fall into disrepair but a large 140 seat café seems out of scale for a local public park and the sectioning off of green spaces is worrying as it the removal of the woodlands.
Going forward there needs to be a clear programme of woodland management with community groups playing an important role. We agree that the woodlands need work but argue that the wholesale destruction of them is not the answer.
English Heritage has shown a ‘dereliction of duty’ towards the woodlands for the last 16 years and increasingly towards the rest of The Park. They do not need a planning application to reverse this.
Can English Heritage be trusted?
Freedom of Information Requests reveal that it has sought to steer and interfere with its independent expert reports. For example, in an email referring to its transport statement, Alex Sydney, Head of Investment and Involvement, writes to Ndai Halisch, Project Manager,
‘ He needs to come up with a form of words which are sufficiently worded to ensure that he is comfortable with what is being said without affecting the forecasts. He may simply refer to this minimal uplift in car traffic already being factored in to the calculation of the increased visitation projections. He needs to read the business plan info for the café and sports groups and amend his projections. If the consultant is not happy with this, he has two options:
1) He needs to come up with a form of words which are sufficiently worded to ensure that he is comfortable with what is being said without affecting the forecasts. He may simply refer to this minimal uplift in car traffic already being factored in to the calculation of the increased visitation projections.
2) He needs to read the business plan info for the café and sports groups and amend his projections.
I don’t mind which he does’
English Heritage has said it wants to protect and enhance wildlife in the park, isn’t this a good thing?
The removal of so many trees from The Park will undoubtedly impact biodiversity. We have nine species of bat in and around the site, badgers, stag beetles, three species of woodpecker, the lesser-spotted is incredibly rare as are song-thrush and mistle thrush. Woodland management plays an essential role in biodiversity by cleverly removing branches and certain trees it is possible to open up areas and direct light to ground level, enhancing wildlife. We argue that this is not an exercise in woodland management rather the destruction of the quadrants. Without a committed replanting scheme we won’t know how badly our park’s wildlife will be affected and once the bulldozers move in it may be too late.
Visitors will arrive on public transport and by foot so why are you making a fuss about traffic and parking?
The idea that everyone visiting The Park will either arrive on public transport or walk to the site is questionable. Firstly, this cannot be policed. Secondly, English Heritage has admitted that most new visitors will travel from further afield and it admits internally that this is problematic.
Stop moaning about parking what’s wrong with the onsite car park?
In a 1989 report called Marble Hill House and Gardens (available at the Local Studies Library, in Richmond), English Heritage say that the onsite car park is often full with extra cars having to park on the grass. It goes on to say that when The Adventure Playground needs replacing then a new one should be erected elsewhere at the site and the current car park expanded.
Our own traffic and parking survey shows that one Sunday in October the car park was full by 9:44am and over 170 cars were tallied going in and out of Orleans Road, mainly to park and drop-off. This narrow single lane shared vehicular and pedestrian route was jammed with cars reversing, parents with children were forced to wait in between parked cars until the road was clear and cyclists had to turn around and wait at the bottom of the road. This is dangerous and an accident waiting to happen.
Where do you get all of your facts, from English Heritage?
We access most of our information via Freedom of Information Requests and through scrutinising the recently withdrawn Planning application and gather information in writing from English Heritage and historical records of the estate.
In the Press