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Interview: Philip Wealthy from Richmond Council

Thu 2nd May 2013, 3:22 pm

Sitematch London meets Richmond Council's Philip Wealthy about development in his borough.

What is your role at the council? What are your responsibilities?

I am Head of Policy and Design which includes responsibility for economic development, planning policy including site briefs, conservation and urban design

Why should a developer choose to invest in Richmond?

Richmond upon Thames is situated in South West London, it includes Richmond Centre (a major centre and the district town centres of Twickenham), Teddington, Whitton and East Sheen. Developers are specifically attracted by the following:

- The high quality historic environment, including 73 conservation areas and the River Thames.  The council has undertaken (or is committed) to major investment in the public realm within the town and local centres;
- The borough is extremely well connected. There is excellent access to central London and the main motorway network connecting Richmond-upon-Thames to the rest of the UK as well as to Heathrow Airport;
- The highly skilled workforce;
- The high levels of local spending through both residents and visitors;
- In relation to residential development: the sustained high demand from buyers because many are attracted by the excellent local schools;
- the international reputation because of key attractions such as Kew Gardens, Hampton Court and Ham House, Twickenham Rugby Stadium and the Stoop Memorial Ground (Harlequins);
- Research by the Municipal Journey and Local Futures recently identified the borough as one of the country's'Top Ten Places to Locate a Business'.  This took account of economic performance factors such as productivity, strength of 'knowledge economy' access to skills, infrastructure and quality of life.  The analysis features in the report 'An Inward Investment Guide to England' - http://themj.co.uk/mjfutures. The borough is particularly entrepreneurial and one of the countries top 4 places for online business, according to Google.

What is Richmond doing to promote development in the borough?

The major centre in the Borough is Richmond and major townscape improvements funded by Transport for London will be completed in 2012.  These will lead to a very high quality design-led public realm which will help to ensure the centre remains such an attraction for shoppers and visitors.  The economy of Richmond town centre will be re-inforced by recent high quality new office developments.

The council is committed to the regeneration of Twickenham Town Centre and an Area Action Plan for Twickenham has recently been subject to consultation.

The main aims are to ensure the co-ordinated development of key sites including Twickenham Station and the Royal Mail Sorting Office site and to improve the public realm particularly to reduce the dominance of through traffic and to consolidate the retail core.

The opening of a new Travel Lodge, townscape improvements, the refurbishment of existing offices and, most importantly, creation of an exciting new open space at Twickenham Riverside, will have an immediate impact in increasing the attractiveness for residents and visitors alike; the aim is that other improvements will be complete in time for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The Council has also identified a number of Uplift areas in the borough where some rejuvenation and development can create new opportunities, including:

- Whitton High Street,  where the aim is to make major improvements to the public realm and retail experience;
- Mortlake, where the redevelopment of the Stag Brewery will provide the major opportunity for high quality mixed use development  linking Mortlake to the Thames (a planning brief for the Brewery site was approved in 2011);
- Hampton North where there is potential for regeneration of the district centre;
- Barnes/Castelnau where there is the potential to improve the shopping areas; and;
- Ham, where in the longer term there is the opportunity to create a new community hub, housing and improve open space.

More generally, the council works proactively with site owners to develop site specific proposals (the LDF Site Allocations Plan will be considered by cabinet in September) and provide site briefs; In relation to business more specifically it works closely with the Chamber of Commerce and local commercial agents, financially supports Town Centre and traders organisations, has recently approved a new Tourism Strategy and is promoting a BID for Twickenham Town centre.

Is the council looking to promote any particular development types?

In terms of business activities the council is particularly seeking serviced office space and studios for which there is a ready demand.

The aim is to develop the following sectors:

- Business services;
- Retail services;
- Creative industries;
- Scientific and Technical (including Green Technology) *Leisure, Tourism and Hospitality.

Have any notable major planning applications been submitted recently? Are you expecting any to be submitted soon?

The major applications currently under consideration are:

- Royal Mail Sorting Office Twickenham (a mixed use development comprising predominantly residential, community, and food and beverage space)
- Former Latchmere Prison site application anticipated later in 2013 (primarily residential)

Are there any particular challenges involved for a developer due to presence of a large number of historical buildings in Richmond?

The historic environment and extensive protected open space clearly limits the availability of sites and means that developments need to be sensitive to the local setting.

Although limiting development, the historic and cultural nature of the borough add to the quality of environment and quality of life, which matters to potential residents and businesses.

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