Due to the everchanging foreign travel rules imposed by the government, this summer has become the ‘summer of the staycation’. Fortunately, we in Twickenham are blessed with wonderful tourist attractions, historic buildings, gardens, and museums.

Many attractions have experienced financial difficulty through the pandemic lockdowns due to reduced visitor numbers, the loss of fundraising. In some cases, this has resulted in job losses.

With most attractions now back open for business, I encourage everyone to explore the cultural, architectural, and natural wonders of our area. I have made an effort to visit, promote and support as many local attractions as possible. On these visits, I have met enthusiastic staff members and volunteers helping with every type of job from guiding visitors to maintaining parkland. I thank them for their welcome and their hard work.   

As some of you may remember from my previous newsletter, I started with Pope’s Grotto in early July. It’s one of Twickenham’s hidden gems, buried beneath Radnor House. Since then, I have also paid visits to Marble Hill House and Park, Turner’s House, the World Rugby Museum, Strawberry Hill House, Hampton Court Palace and Twickenham Museum. I also look forward to visiting Hampton Hill Theatre for their grand reopening in September.  There really is something for everyone in Twickenham from history to sport, from nature to theatre, we are truly spoilt for choice. Even if we can’t travel abroad as much as we would like to, there is no better place to be than Twickenham during the summer of the staycation. For more information see the “Supporting local tourist attractions” section.

Useful Information

Latest Covid Numbers

In the week August 1st-7th, there were 447 cases of coronavirus in Richmond upon Thames. The incidence rate in Richmond is 225.6/100,000, compared to a London-wide incidence of 273.0/100,000 and England-wide rate of 293.3/100,000. These figures show that cases have decreased in our borough, but are stable across London, and across England as a whole.

Data source: https://www.datarich.info/covid-19/

Covid testing available to all

To book your free rapid lateral flow COVID-19 test or find your nearest take-home testing kits collection point, visit: https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/

These tests are for people NOT experiencing symptoms. If you have any of the main Covid-19 symptoms you should arrange a PCR test here.

Walk-in and pop-up vaccination clinics

The walk-in clinic at Harlequins Stoop Stadium will be open every day until Sunday 15th August. Details of which vaccines are being offered and eligibility criteria are available here.

Anyone 18 or over is eligible for a vaccine can also book their jab either online or by calling 119.

Vaccines delivered

Across the Twickenham constituency (which includes Teddington, Whitton, the Hamptons, St Margarets, Strawberry Hill), a total of 70,087 people have had two doses of the Covid vaccine and 83,897 first doses have been administered as of 5th August. Date Source

GO>GIVE>1 is an international campaign to vaccinate the world

Go Give One is a COVID-19 fundraising campaign with no borders. Created by the WHO Foundation, the campaign calls on everyone, everywhere to play their part in helping to vaccinate the world.

The money raised goes to the Gavi COVAX AMC, which funds COVID-19 vaccines for lower-income countries, helping protect those who need vaccines the most. If you would like to support GO>GIVE>1 find out more here

Local meetings, events and news

Teddington Station accessible improvements

For too long, Teddington Station has been inaccessible to those with reduced mobility.

This week I was informed that the Secretary of State for Transport has given the order for Network Rail to acquire the necessary land and for works to start. As a result, two lift shafts will be installed to connect the existing footbridge, as well as a step-free link between the two platforms. This is fantastic news for local passengers, and testament to the hard work of local councillors who have campaigned for these changes for many years. I look forward to seeing the changes implemented soon.  

E-scooter trial

E-scooters seem to divide opinion with strong views held on both sides. Many see them as a low-carbon, zero emission, convenient form of personal transport. Others have legitimate safety, especially with illegal private e-scooters and the dangers posed to pedestrians when people ride on pavements.

A year-long trial of e-scooters has been has started across Richmond and seven other London boroughs. These are the only e-scooters which are currently legal in London.

I was given a demonstration of the e-scooters by TIER, one of the three operators participating in the trial. They showed me the built-in safety features, lights, and their geo-fencing technology which prevents riding in parks and pedestrian zones. They must be ridden on the road by people who are over 18 with a valid driving licence. The trial will gather data about how Londoners use the scooters, how popular and how safe they are. I await the outcome of the trial with interest. 

The Richmond upon Thames Safter Neighbourhood Board has a fact sheet about e-scooters as part of their most recent newsletter. More information here

South Western Railway timetable change consultation

SWR is proposing changes to their timetables which will  result in a reduction of services to a number of local stations. In particular, the Hounslow loop line will not be reinstated twice hourly. I am seeking a meeting with SWR to fully understand their proposals and will share further information soon. In the meantime, you can read the full consultation document and respond here by 19 September

Visit to LGC in Teddington

LGC is a global leader in life science tools and forms part of the growing life sciences cluster in South West London. CEO Tim Robinson and Chief Science Officer, Dr Derek Craston gave me a fascinating tour of their laboratories. LGC employs over 500 people across two sites in Twickenham and Teddington, supporting the NHS’s Covid testing capability and the vaccine programme. Their ultra-high-throughput technology has been deployed in the Lighthouse testing labs to enable mass Covid testing.

Green Recovery Challenge Fund 

Twickenham has been awarded a grant from the Government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund. The winning nature project was entitled ‘Rewilding Arcadia’, and was put forward by The Father Thames Trust. The aim of the project is to encourage universal access and enjoyment of the Arcadian Thames floodplain by re-connecting people and wildlife with water. I am immensely proud of what they have achieved, and I congratulate them on having received this grant.

Interactive quizzes and trails

Twickenham and Richmond residents are invited to take part in a series of interactive quizzes and trails throughout August 2021.

The interactive trail routes can be accessed for free on the VisitRichmond website and by collecting them from the VisitRichmond kiosk at Richmond station.

The free quizzes are held every Saturday in August from 5.00pm – 6.00pm with each quiz focusing on a different area of the borough, testing your local knowledge. Prizes include family tickets to Kew Gardens and the WWT London Wetlands Centre. 

Book online to enter

Supporting local tourist attractions

World Rugby Museum

Situated at Twickenham Stadium, the World Rugby Museum holds the most extensive collection of rugby memorabilia in the world, including over 11,000 historic photographs. Combined with a stadium tour and an interactive zone, it’s a great way to entertain kids of all ages. https://worldrugbymuseum.com/

Marble Hill House and Park

I had the pleasure of visiting Marble Hill House and Park to hear about their £8M refurbishment project.

A small army of wonderful local volunteers is reinstating the grounds to their original 1748 design. The perfect place to spend a few hours.

There are a variety of events taking place, including concerts behind the House, in August and September. More information here:

Turner’s House

If you are searching for an interesting day trip in St Margarets, I can highly recommend Turner’s House. Built in 1813, it was designed by great landscape painter J.M.W. Turner as a quiet retreat.

Turner’s House Trust does great work with local charities Richmond Mind and Age UK Richmond, and 5 local schools.

This summer Turner’s House is hosting a new exhibition of eleven Turner watercolours and engravings entitled Turner’s English Coasts. Other events include painting courses, art talks, and even gin tasting!

Hampton Court Palace 

On a tour of Hampton Court Palace, I heard how closures over the past 18 months have impacted staff and volunteers.

The magnificent Tudor palace of Henry VIII, and the baroque palace of William and Mary, provide two fascinating slices of history in one.

Beyond the palace buildings are beautiful grounds, The Magic Garden, live performances and the oldest surviving hedge maze in Britain. Something for everyone, making the perfect family day out.

Strawberry Hill House

I spent a wonderful afternoon exploring Strawberry Hill House and Garden. Horace Walpole’s “little gothic castle”, is filled with curious artefacts to discover.

Designed to have a medieval, theatrical “gloomth” to it, I also enjoyed learning about Walpole himself who was multifaceted being an MP, writer and collector, to name but a few. The grounds are glorious and include a community garden which is now being prescribed for people with dementia or who are grieving. There are also trails to walk which have provided a safe haven for many during the past 18 months.

The house has done exceptionally well to maintain and keep its volunteers engaged and the community spirit is clear when visiting. It is well worth booking a trip, especially to see the portrait of Catherine de’Medici with her children by François Clouet, which has recently been returned to the house 247 years later.

Standing up for you

Conservative Government plans to charge over 60s for their prescriptions

The Government is planning to introduce a charge for prescriptions for those aged between 60 and 66. They are currently consulting on increasing the age at which you are entitled to free NHS prescriptions to align with the state pension age (currently 66). The consultation is open until 2nd September. Have your say here:

I pressed the Environment Agency to better patrol Teddington Lock

In recent months there have been increasing concerns over dangerous and antisocial activity at Teddington Lock. Boat owners and river safety volunteers recently spoke out about people jumping from the pedestrian bridge and swimming near to the weir, stating there is a “severe risk of loss of life”. Barriers and security have since been improved but more needs to be done.

I recently met with the Environmental Agency to discuss Teddington Lock and work out future solutions. I have pressed them and the local police for more patrols in the area and I will continue to monitor the situation, working with local councillors.

Sadiq Khan to make increase to congestion charge permanent

TfL and the Mayor of London are proposing to make the £15 congestion charge level permanent amongst other proposed changes.

If you wish to find out more about the proposals, or comment on the changes then visit TFL have your say. The consultation closes Wednesday 6th October 2021.

I called on the government to invest in increased training places to boost rheumatology workforce numbers

The British Society for Rheumatology recently reported that the NHS rheumatology workforce is understaffed and, in some areas, up to a third of consultant posts are vacant. These have caused unacceptable caseloads, long waiting times and delays in care for the millions of people with conditions like arthritis.

I tabled a motion in Parliament calling on the Government to increase training places to meet forecast demand.

The full wording of the motion can be found here.

I sought to ease pupils’ anxiety by calling for clarity on next year’s exams

I pressed the Minister for Schools to be clear about what end of year assessments will look like in 2022. Pupils, parents and teachers have all suffered over the past two years with endless uncertainty and deserve to begin the Autumn term with a clear framework in place.

Watch the exchange in Parliament here.

I took a stand against pet theft

Over the course of the pandemic, pet thefts have risen by 250%. A recent survey discovered that 83% of dog owners were scared to walk their beloved pets at night in response to the rise in dognapping.

Under current law, pets are treated as property, with no distinction between a family’s beloved dog and a stolen bike. Along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues, I fought to change this through an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The amendment would have imposed harsher penalties for pet theft, bringing comfort to all of those currently in fear. Unfortunately, Conservative MPs have since blocked these plans.

Find out how you can take a stand against pet theft here.

Sign my petition: Green Education for a Brighter Future

Climate change affects us all. This is especially true for the younger generations, who are inheriting a climate crisis. Sea ice is melting, permafrost defrosting, and global temperatures are rising. We must equip young people with the tools they need to combat and cope with the climate emergency.

Climate change is the most important issue young people face, and they should be taught what causes climate issues, how we can fight back, and how this will impact their lifestyle and livelihood in their futures. Yet there is no established educational pathway to inform children about climate issues, with the quality of climate education differing from school to school.

That is why I’m campaigning for climate education to be made an independent subject. Sign my petition here.