Residents have raised concerns that local history and jobs are under threat by a proposed redevelopment plan of Twickenham’s boatyards.

Richmond Council unveiled designs to pedestrianise Twickenham Embankment in September 2019, saying that the new design would allow more residents and visitors to enjoy the area.

However, businesses in the boatyards, which are some of the last serving the working Thames, have complained that this will remove access for deliveries and servicing, causing significant financial losses.

The two boatyards house four separate businesses, Eel Pie Island Slipways, Eel Pie Boatyard, Phoenix Wharf Slipway and Cruisemaster Marine, which say that the loss of car parking will ruin their businesses.

Mark Montgomery-Smith, owner of Eel Pie Boatyard, said:

“I challenge you to show us a boatyard anywhere in the developed world without a car park. We have tried to inform the Council that if they take away parking, they are effectively closing Eel Pie Boatyard and Eel Pie Slipways as boatyards, but they just aren't listening.”

Eel Pie island has iconic status in the Rock 'n' Roll world, as a place where legendary bands from the Rolling Stones and David Bowie, to The Who went to cut their teeth.

However, it also has a long and significant history of boat entrepreneur and craftsmanship.

In 1933, Joseph Mears, co-founder of Chelsea football club, ran a fleet of 30 vessels, the largest passenger boat service in the whole of London, all managed from Eel Pie Island.

Dave Johnston, veteran wooden boat builder on the island, had been planning to open a boatbuilding school to supply the specialist skills required to maintain the industry. He said:

"These plans, and the Council's unwavering intransigence to pedestrianise a working riverside in order to up the prices of new-build properties, would be catastrophic for the future of boatbuilding and boat repairs on the island and the Thames itself. We would not only be losing another craft, but also sealing the fate of boatyards in Twickenham".

Richmond Council have defended the redevelopment project. A spokesperson commented:

“Plans to redevelop Twickenham Riverside have been extensively consulted upon over the past five years. As part of the engagement – residents have told us repeatedly that they want us to remove parking from the Embankment between Water Lane and Wharf Lane, to create a riverside for people not cars.

“Whilst we are still in the design phase for the project, we are working closely with the Eel Pie Island Association, who represent the residents and businesses on Eel Pie Island, to ensure that there is still sufficient access to the footbridge for deliveries and servicing. There will be a period of pre-planning consultation later this year where the proposals will be made available for public comments.”