Funding Secured for Thames Walkway and Chiswick Boat House Redevelopment

Council plan to take money from schools expansion budget

nbares bridge showing walkway underneath
CGI of proposed walkway by the Thames in Chiswick

Nearly seven million pounds of extra funding has been earmarked by the council for two major projects in the Dukes Meadows area.

£5.5million that has been underspent in the borough’s capital budget for the schools expansion programme is to be transferred to allow the completion of the pedestrian walkway by the Thames at Barnes Railway Bridge and the redevelopment of the Chiswick Boat House.

The available budget for the walkway is to be increased from £300,000 to £3.8 million and the budget for the boat house development has been raised from £354,000 to £3.7million. As well as the money transferred from the school budget there are grants of £1mn from Transport for London for the pedestrian bridge and £250,000 from the London Marathon Community Trust and £100,000 from Sport England for the boathouse.

The funding plan is recommended in a report by Clive Palfreyman, Executive Director of Finance and Resources and will be decided by Councillor Shantanu Rajawat, Cabinet Member for Finance & Corporate Services.

riversidecafe dukes meadows
New cafe proposed which would have views of the Thames

The report states, “The Dukes Meadows footbridge is an important component of the ongoing Dukes Meadows Masterplan. A step change improvement to the Thames Path, the bridge aligns with the council’s commitment for a cleaner, greener Borough linking to a modern and affordable transport network. As well as improving pedestrian and cycling access, the bridge will increase public transport accessibility to the western side of Dukes Meadows, encouraging sustainable access to the leisure campus - complementing and strengthening the Boathouse development. The Boathouse re-development is an important step in improving accessibility to the River Thames, in line with existing local and regional plans.”

Both schemes will now be primarily funded by the council’s own resources. The schools expansion programme has an underspend of £5.6mn.

The forecasted overall Schools Budget position for Hounslow is a £1.2m deficit. This was the position forecasted after the application of a £6.1m drawing from reserves. The council will have a negative dedicated schools grant reserve at the end of 2019/20. It is understood that it was not possible to use the underspend in the schools expansion budget to cover this deficit.

Hounslow Planning Committee has already approved the design for the new walkway. The committee of the Barnes Footpath Project Board was chaired by Chiswick councillor John Todd, who is also deputy chair of Dukes Meadow Development board. The main benefit to the public of the walkway is that that pedestrians will no longer have to divert up Dan Mason Drive and The Promenade and away from the river while walking on the Thames Path.

The design of the proposed new walkway was submitted by Moxon Architects. Moxon is an international firm of architects with previous experience in building bridges. They were also involved in the design of the Taipei Museum of Art. The design is for a curved structure which would sit below the bridge and link the Thames Path to Dukes Meadows. The project would use offsite prefabrication and river transport to reduce disruption and carbon consumption during construction.

CGI of proposed walkway by the Thames in Chiswick

The redevelopment of the facilities on the Dukes Meadows playing fields and the site of the Thames Tradesmen's ((TTRC) clubhouse has not yet been granted planning permission. The existing changing rooms and boat house would be demolished along with the redundant public toilets on The Promenade. A new two storey club house would be built at the site which will include a café on the ground floor which would have views of the Thames.

Chiswick Boathouse

TTRC have just resolved a long running legal dispute with the council which saw them evicted from their club house. After challenging the eviction in the courts the council agreed to give them a new lease which gave them security of tenure even in the event of a redevelopment of the boat house. We contacted TTRC for comment but they said they had not been informed of any new funding plan for the development of the building.

Cllr John Todd told us, “I'm a member of The Dukes Meadows Project Team with responsibility for the new footbridge project and also a Governor of Chiswick School that, like other schools in Chiswick, received substantial funding for expansion.

“Over the last five years the LBH School expansion project has spent circa £500m on expansion projects and the new Oakland's Special School.

“The current remaining balance on the school expansion capital account won't be required for school expansion and as you say has been transferred to the bridge and boathouse project.”

He added that the boat house project aims to allow every secondary school pupil to have the opportunity to safely experience rowing on the Thames.

Councillor Tom Bruce, Cabinet Member for Education, Youth & Children’s Services at Hounslow Council said, "Hounslow Council is part funding the costs of the Thames Walkway and Chiswick Boathouse from the Schools Expansion Programme capital budget. However, to be clear, the council is not taking money away from schools projects as there are no further developments required.

"The council allocated a significant amount of money to the Schools Expansion budget some while ago, but the remainder of this was no longer required given that the population growth was not as high as predicted at the time and there are no further expansions needed currently.

"The school revenue budget is a completely separate matter and to try and conflate the two is wrong. Monies set aside for the Schools Expansion Programme a few years ago were from council resources, whereas the revenue budgets within schools, which remains unchanged, are provided by Central Government where the council has little discretion in terms of spend".

May 14, 2020