Tory-led Richmond Council is facing protest from local residents after plans were discovered to turn a tranquil riverside park and children’s playground into a busy tourist centre and dry-dock for the Queen’s barge Gloriana…and use £1m of public money to do it.
The idea is the pet project of Lord True (pictured above), the Conservative leader of Richmond council, and will use £1m of public money to build a tourist and heritage site with Gloriana as its centre, as a tribute to the vessel, its Richmond connections, and to the Queen. Plans include building a visitors centre and a café.
The first most local people new of the plans was when a giddy Lord True let slip at a dinner, and they were subsequently confirmed by officials.
But the wooded parkland of Orleans, earmarked as the vessel’s new home happens to be in a conservation area donated to the local authority in the 1960s for the enjoyment of local families.
Local residents and campaign group The Friends of Orleans Riverside said the plans would destroy a tranquil riverside spot with unmanageable numbers of tourists and require a well-loved children’s playground to be moved.
Local resident Paul Bigley, 52, a spokesman for the group, said:
“They are talking about cutting a canal into the wooded area to house the barge which is 95ft, so we’re talking about a large structure with a visitors centre and new café to go with it.
“It would also go through the children’s playground which would have to be re-located.”
And on the lack of public consultation over the project, Bigley said:
“We have all seen surveyors marking out the ground over the last few weeks but all we have heard is rumours the council would not confirm,”
“Now we find out they have been secretly planning and working away on this for a very long time and they have already got detailed plans drawn up…So people are very, very angry.
“We don’t want what is a beautiful conservation area, a tranquil, quiet and wooded place, to be turned into developed land. This area is like the riverside would have been before it was first developed in the 18th century. It is resplendent. It does not need a royal barge to be rammed into it in what amounts to a vanity project.”
Austerity? What Austerity?
Richmond Council has cut £33m from front line services over the last four years. These cuts have directly impacted the authority’s most vulnerable residents – people who are elderly, disabled, ill or in the social care system.
It was argued that these cuts, as unpalatable as they are, were unavoidable – the necessary outcome of an unbalanced budget.
Yet, Richmond can afford to take £1m out of the public purse to pursue a vanity project for the Queen and her gilded barge?
Pull the other one.
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