Leading local university to manage Twickenham community building

St Mary’s University will take over the management of the borough’s newest community building in Twickenham, it was announced last night.

In 2014 Richmond Council granted Planning Consent for the redevelopment of the Post Office site in Twickenham. As part of the permission, the developers, St James, agreed to build a new Community Building on the Brewery Wharf site - opposite Twickenham Train Station.

The landmark facility, which will be finished this Spring, comprises a theatre space for an audience of nearly 320 people seated, a further six multi-purpose studio rooms, a large conservatory area and various back of house and ancillary rooms.

Over the past 18 months, the Council has been working on the plans for how the new centre should be used, looking for a partner who would be able to manage the building and ensure it:

  • Provides a commercially viable business. The Council’s aim has been that the facility is financially self-sufficient and runs without a Council subsidy.
  • Meets the needs of Community Visitors. Providing a varied programme of entertainment, cultural, community and business interests, including a local cinema.
  • Create a community venue that is well managed and a benefit to not only the local community but beyond.

At last night’s Leaders’ Questiontime event at The Stoop, Lord True announced that subject to final approvals and contracts, it is the Council’s intention to lease the building to St Mary’s University.

The University has been working with the Council to develop a plan that would enable them to use the building for:

  • Academic Tuition for St Mary’s students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Along with training courses for local residents and local businesses
  • Room hire for community groups, local residents and local businesses
  • A Café in the Conservatory that will be open to the public
  • The hosting of local arts, music and literature festival events
  • Theatre performances
  • Cinema showings, band nights, comedy nights
  • Conference and event hire

Members will now discuss the proposal at a Cabinet Meeting in February.

Lord True, said:

“This is an important partnership deal that secures a long-term future for the community building. We will work to ensure wide access, all without any continued revenue costs to the tax payer.

“St Mary’s has a long history of academic excellence and has been based in and contributed to the Borough since 1925. This will be a facility that will not only benefit students, but also the wider community, acknowledging and providing space for, the exceptional arts groups and organisations we have in our borough.

“This is one more stage in the improvement and enhancement of Twickenham to which this Council set itself in 2010. I hope thousands of local people will enjoy the new facilities that are created. This significant regeneration project is going to bring a community heart to a piece of land that has been derelict for so long.

“Over the past year we have all watched the building go up. And, when it opens, this new building will bring more entertainment to people of all ages in the borough, giving arts and culture a welcome boost.

Francis Campbell, Vice-Chancellor of St Mary’s University, said:

“We are delighted to be able to partner with Richmond Council on such an exciting project. I look forward to seeing this facility develop under our leadership and seeing both students and the local community alike enjoy all that it has to offer.

“St Mary’s already welcomes thousands of local residents to our Strawberry Hill campus through our sporting, cultural and education activities. We’re committed to expanding our links with the local community and businesses, and this facility provides a fantastic location in the heart of Twickenham to take that ambition forward, whilst developing more cutting edge teaching facilities for our students.”

Sean Ellis, Chairman of St James, commented:

“This facility is an integral part of the area’s regeneration, designed and built to give this former industrial site a real identity and put it back into the use of the wider neighbourhood. The community building presents a fantastic opportunity, and I look forward to seeing this realised by St Mary’s University.”

– from a Richmond Council press release - 19 January 2017