Architects are set to drawing up plans for the Twickenham Riverside development in a bid to end a 40 year argument over what to do with the site.

The future of the prime riverside spot has been fiercely contested for decades.

Now councillors in Richmond have agreed to launch a design competition to a November cabinet meeting.

Plans including a town square, flats and shops were approved earlier this year.

But there were tnen thrown out less than two months after the Liberal Democrats took control of the council in the May elections.

Subject to agreement by the cabinet, the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) will run the competition to find a new design, with the whole  process costing Richmond Council an estimated £210,000. 

This includes Riba costs, payments to the unsuccessful architects, delivering the consultation, analysis of the consulation and the Council project management.

A council scrunity report written ahead of the October 29 meeting stated the aim of the vacant Riverside development is to “make Twickenham a destination for something other than rugby”.

But Green Party councillor Dylan Baxendale asked why the design process was going ahead without a business case being made first, suggesting the council was “putting the cart before the horse”.

However, council leader Gareth Roberts responded by saying the cost should not be the most important factor.

He said: “We should be looking to invest in it. I think that we do need to look at this site and think ‘we’ve messed around for decades and decades and decades looking at the bottom line all the time’.

“We want something that is going to be great for Twickenham, and if it’s going to take a little bit of extra public funding to do that, we shouldn’t be afraid to do it.”

Groups made up of residents, campaigners, businesses and councillors are also being set up with the hope of bringing transparency to the process.

The Local Stakeholder Reference Group will comprise representatives from the different campaigning and resident groups.

And the Twickenham Riverside Design Group, will be made from four councillors (the leader, two cabinet members and one councillor for the ward), a representative from the Stakeholder Reference Group, a resident with technical expertise and an expert appointed by Riba.

The second group will make a decision, taking into account the results of further public consultation, on the five architects that the newly formed Twickenham design panel shortlists.

Cllr Roberts said: “We have a very large democratic mandate. We went large during the elections to say that we wanted to create a different vision for Twickenham Riverside – we wanted to create a riverside park.

“What we are trying to do this time round, after significant failures over recent years, is to try to be as open and transparent through the process as possible.”

The competition is expected to open in December this year or January 2019, and a decision by the Design Group is expected to be made in June.