The derelict site of the old Jolly Boatman at the Molesey end of Hampton Court Bridge has been an eyesore for decades. Everyone wants to see sympathetic development of this site, which is long overdue, and hopes were raised when the present owners indicated their intention to put in a planning application. However, the scheme that they devised, together with Network Rail, is widely viewed as over intense and inappropriate for this sensitive location.
Elmbridge Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a hotel next to the river and high density residential and retail development of the areas around the station caused a local outcry. This decision was taken despite fierce opposition from Molesey’s nine Borough Councillors and two County Councillors, all of whom represent the Molesey Residents’ Association. Local voluntary organisations have also been prominent in opposing the Council, of which the foremost has been the Hampton Court Rescue Committee to whose efforts the Trust has lent strong support.
Alas it has all been to no avail because the Council has chosen to override local opinion. The developers have recently satisfied the final regulatory hurdles and are cleared to commence construction. However, we understand that the developer, Gladedale, is showing no signs of pressing ahead with this project.
Hucks Boatyard has served river users for many decades. The site is known to most local residents by its prominent Swiss chalet style building. The current owner originally sought permission to turn the chalet into a restaurant, which might not have proved widely offensive, but instead he has proceeded to develop the site without first seeking planning permission at all. What he has put in place is unacceptable to the Trust and many other local organisations.
There is no longer a working boatyard and dry dock, new residential buildings have been erected and it is his intention to moor a dozen or more large luxury houseboats to a series of pilings that now extend out into the navigation channel - see advert.
The Trust, along with numerous other local organisations and residents, objected in the strongest terms to this blatant flouting of the planning regulations in a conservation area. The Council issued Orders for the offending structures to be removed but the owner appealed against these Orders and carried on developing the site. The Planning Inspectorate has agreed to hold a public inquiry into this fiasco. The public hearings begin at York House, Twickenham, on 25 February. The Trust will be seeking an opportunity to be heard at this inquiry.
Unauthorised mooring of houseboats along the Hampton bank of the Thames has been a problem for some time. River users are permitted to moor for up to 24 hours but there has been a permanent houseboat community moored just upstream from Tagg’s Island for years. There are no proper facilities there for this community, rubbish is frequently seen on the site, cars are illegally parked and one shudders to think what might be dumped into the river.
Following strong protests from the Trust and many others, Richmond Council was persuaded to seek new byelaw powers to make it easier to move on offending vessels. The Government has been receptive to their request and the Council is awaiting final approval for a new byelaw which could help to resolve the problem.
However, what may be good for Hampton may just move the problem over to Molesey. There has already been an increase in illegal mooring on the Molesey bank of the Thames. The Friends of Hurst Park and the Trust have been drawing this to the attention of the Environment Agency which, on the Surrey side, is the relevant authority. The EA have acted on occasion to move offending vessels on, but these boat owners are now beginning to return and moor up again close to the same location after only a brief interval.
This behaviour clearly flouts the authority of the EA so we shall have to be constantly vigilant in drawing to their attention a problem which potentially could become much worse after Richmond gets its new powers.
The Trust takes a continuing keen interest in this much prized Grade 1 listed building which graces so prominently our riverside. As most residents will know, the Temple is open free to the public from March until October, and during the summer months a range of cultural events are put on in the Temple and its gardens.
Earlier this year the Council proposed to cease locking park gates at night, including the gates to the Temple gardens. The Trust protested strongly, in support of the Temple Trust, that this would be dangerously inappropriate given the Temple’s sad history of criminal damage and vandalism. Many other local organisations also resisted the proposal and we are glad to report that the Council had second thoughts and said it would consult more widely. Since then all has gone very quiet.
Members will be interested to learn that the Temple Trust is progressing a scheme to develop the Loggia in the garden so that it can be used all year round for cultural and educational activities. Discussions with interested parties are now well advanced, substantial sums of money have been committed and we are very hopeful that this excellent project will be brought to fruition in the foreseeable future.
Members will doubtless have noticed that the exterior of the Villas has now been restored to its former glory following the disastrous fire. A few flats are now reoccupied but a great deal of work remains to be done on the interiors, and there are still unresolved issues regarding the financing of some of this.
The Thames towpath on the Molesey side is extremely popular with walkers and cyclists, affording beautiful vistas along its whole length from Hampton Court Bridge to Weybridge. The Trust’s remit covers the riverside as far as Hurst Park Primary School and we are particularly concerned to ensure that when the Environment Agency completes the restoration of Molesey weir in 2014 they will restore fully the area near Sadler’s Ride car park currently used as a depot.
We shall also be pressing them to reuse the materials in the temporary path they created around their depot. There should be enough to resurface a long stretch of the towpath upriver from the slipway. We see this as justifiable “payback” for the inconvenience residents will have had to put up with during the years of disruption.
We were very successful earlier this year in persuading the relevant authorities to resurface the heavily used section of towpath alongside the Cricket Club. You can see the transformation in the photos below.
Members may recollect that there was a planning application for redevelopment of the island some years ago. This met with considerable resistance, particularly on the Molesey side, due to the excessive density of residential development sought and the proposed destruction of arboreal cover. The application was eventually withdrawn following the emergence of apparently insoluble problems with the access bridge.
We understand that the island has recently been sold to Shanley Investments, who are believed to intend to submit a planning application for redevelopment. It is reported to be the Council’s intention to require complete reconstruction of the listed boathouses, which have now deteriorated beyond economical repair. The island’s other listed buildings are believed to be capable of restoration. The Trust will be keeping a close lookout for any further developments affecting Platt’s Eyot.
Click on the picture to see it full size.