Pedestrian walkway opened under arch at Kew Bridge

Image above: Archway under Kew Bridge opened as a pedestrian walkway

12 years and £60,000 to clear out an archway and give it a coat of paint

The walkway under one of the arches at Kew Bridge connecting Strand on the Green and Brentford has officially been opened to the public.

The space beneath the arch had been used by developers St George as a marketing suite for their apartment complex at the north end of the bridge, but the arch remained boarded up for years after the office closed.

Local councillors suggested it should be used to give residents of the new flats access to Strand on the Green when the development was in its initial planning stages.

It has taken 12 years and a great deal of persistence from the Strand on the Green residents association (SOGA) for the plan to come to fruition.

The bridge is owned by Transport for London, whose commercial property department tries to maximise revenue from such spaces. They were not keen to relinquish the prospect of commercial revenue it might have brought in but were eventually prevailed upon to release the arch space for public use.

It is now leased to LB Hounslow for 25 years. The council has spent £60,000 clearing the space and renovating it.

It has been in use since the Jubilee weekend but Friday (21 July) saw the official ribbon-cutting by Deputy Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Katherine Dunne, with Ruth Cadbury MP for Brentford & Isleworth and Will Norman, the Mayor of London’s Commissioner for walking and cycling.

Image above: Ruth Cadbury MP, Cllr Katherine Dunne, Will Norman, Cllr Gabriella Giles

Will Norman thanks “Stroud on the Green” residents

It was all going so well, with Will Norman describing how he had enjoyed walks along this stretch of the River Thames with family and stressing the importance of having an uninterrupted path for pedestrians along the river without them having to take a detour up and over the road through the traffic to cross to the other side.

All going so well that is, until he thanked the ‘Stroud on the Green’ residents association. There was an embarrassed pause as the assembled company considered whether it would be rude to correct him. They decided they would anyway.

Unperturbed, he continued:

“When I first came into the job this was one of the first things that landed on my desk. I thought it would be straightforward. Actually it wasn’t. This was one of the weakest links along the Thames Path but the Commercial development team have to balance commercial and community interests.”

Cllr Katherine Dunne said how pleased she was.

“We have this wonderful wide space to continue the journey along the river without having to negotiate traffic.

“I’m especially pleased that people in wheelchairs and with buggies can get through.”

Image above: Ruth Cadbury MP addressing group at opening of the pedestrian walkway 

Lots of people pushed for this to happen

Ruth Cadbury MP, who was a councillor for Brentford before she became its MP in 2015, said:

“There are lots of people who have pushed for this.” Tony Arbour, Conservative GLA member, was one who deserved special mention for continuing to push for it, she said.

She thanked SOGA for “nagging” when it kept dropping down the priority list: “Thanks for waking us up every now and then.”

She thanked local councillors Mel Collins, Sam Hearn and Guy Lambert for seeing it through.

Paul Lynch, one of the original Riverside ward councillors who had thought it a good idea, was there to see it opened. Current Riverside ward councillor Gabriella Giles said she was glad TfL had recognised community need and put it ahead of profit.

“Taking 12 years for something quite simple is not the way we’d like things to be done in local government” she said.

Making sure it was called the ‘Platinum Jubilee Arch’, not the ‘Active Travel Arch’

The campaign to get the walkway open has bookended Richard Griffiths’ time as chairman of SOGA. He was first involved when he took over as chairman of the residents’ association in 2014.

His last act as chairman was to get the arch named the ‘Platinum Jubilee Arch’ (organised by Fiona Sparkes, general manager of the Bell & Crown and painted by Fuller’s sign-writer) before TfL and the council could organise themselves to label it the ‘Active Travel Arch.’

The walkway restores the historic connection that has always existed between riverside residents at Strand on the Green and Brentford. When the bridge was built in 1903 people were able to walk through the arches to give access to the market that used to be where the piazza is now.

In Edwardian times the piazza outside One Over the Ait was the site of the biggest vegetable market in Western Europe. What is now the Western International Market started there in 1892. It moved to Heathrow in 1982.

The market was here because of the fruit and vegetables grown here in the days when Brentford was known for its market gardening and the Royal Horticultural Society was based here.

Image above: Canoeists on the strand by Kew Bridge; photograph Anna Kunst

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