A proposal for a ‘mixed river leisure facility’ at Strand on the Green would be dangerous for people doing water sports according to those who currently use the river for kayaking and paddle boarding. The plan, called ‘Chiswick Beach’ would achieve the opposite of what it purports to offer by creating an obstacle in the river which would present a risk of entanglement, or ‘pinning’ for canoeists and paddleboarders at high tide, increasing their risk of drowning.
Houseboats, deckchairs and pedalos
The PLA have received an application in for the installation of piles, pontoons and moorings at Ball’s Wharf, which is the area just east of Kew Bridge, for a mixed used facility with 10 houseboats, a boat club for motorboats, a cafe and facilities for human powered watersports including pedalos. It promises ‘the increase of the use and enjoyment of the foreshore’ in what it calls a ‘blighted’ area in ‘a remote small landscaped area which is in disrepair.’ The proposal by Environomics Consultants says ‘As at any beach there will be the provision of deck chairs, picnicking, ice-cream, sunbathing etc … Chiswick Beach will not detract from the area; in fact it will be a beautiful reinvigoration of lost facilities and new leisure, recreational, arts, culture and the opportunity to enjoy the Thames.’
The plan shows the development stretching from the drawdock or slipway beside Kew Bridge almost as far as the Bell & Crown.
Paddleboarders and kayakers concerned about added risks to river users
It comes as news to the existing sporting clubs that: ‘It has been a significant asset to the area for riverside uses in the past, but this use has been lost recently. There is a significant deficiency of leisure provision.’ There are two Kayaking clubs and a paddleboarding company based at Kew Bridge.
Peter Hughes, chairman of the Kayak club Edge Progressive Paddling says they and Chelsea Kayak Club have more than a hundred members between them and with visitors in the summer they enable hundreds of people to use the river at Strand on the Green in the summer. He told me “This is not about improving the area for the community. In the summer the river is chocka with leisure boats, rowers paddleboarders, kayaks. This is about a greedy developer wanting to make a fast buck”.
He and Paul Hyman from Active 360, which runs paddleboarding from the arches at Kew Bridge both have concerns that a pontoon at Strand on the Green would make it more difficult for their members. The Thames at Strand on the Green is fully tidal. An immense amount of water is displaced each day and at high and low tide the river runs at a fast walking pace. Paddleboarders and kayakers use the power of the water. Typically they go from Kew to Richmond on the incoming tide and return on the ebb tide.
“There would be a pinning or entanglement hazard on the ebb tide” Paul Hyman told me. It would be easy, especially for beginners, to overshoot the landing and hit the pontoon. “They would have to be careful they don’t get swept in to it on the way back from Richmond.” The proposed pontoon would present a hazard as it would be easy to be pinned against it and trapped underneath.
The proposed development presents another problem for the kayak clubs. The first arch of Kew Bridge next to the north shore is blocked off, so to go upstream to Richmond they have to pass under the middle arch, which is where the water runs faster. At the moment they paddle downstream from the drawdock hugging the wall (exactly where the proposed development would be) so beginners can get used to the water before they have to make a sharp right turn and brave the midstream channel in order to go upstream. If that’s not an option they would have to go straight out into fast flowing water, which Peter Hughes says would make it too difficult for beginners.
Paul and Peter also think that the creation of a pontoon at that point would contribute to a build up of mud, which would make it more difficult than it already is to get in to the water. Paul told me what is needed to encourage more use of the river for water sports is a built causeway with a gentle slope down to the river at the existing draw dock. They also have concerns about the general public using pedalos unsupervised both because of the danger of collisions as there are so many rowers and because of the tides.
Ruining the historic view
The idea that Strand on the Green is ‘blighted’ also comes as a surprise to residents who on the whole rather like it the way it is. The Strand on the Green Residents Association is asking its members for their views. One member has replied to the PLA saying in his view the development is inappropriate because it ‘will damage the historic views and amenity of the riverside park and walking.’
The author of the report ‘Environomics Consultants’ says: Hounslow have requested that I should bring this to the planning committee after the works license application. The have advised that they would look favourably upon the application, as it is very similar to their own recently in Brentford.
If you have any comments please send them to the Chairman and to Jackie Evans, the PLA Licensing Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org by 26 December