Bulldozing Battersea Water Pumping station for profit

Listed but not protected

Battersea Water Pumping Station is Grade II listed but not protected.

The usual safeguards against demolition of a heritage building are under scrutiny as REO, “developers” of Battersea Power Station, seek to bypass the criteria for demolishing a listed building and bulldoze the Victorian Battersea Water Pumping Station. Under new policy guidelines, REO will no longer need to administer the test criteria before destruction of a heritage site. REO state they “are not seeking to justify demolition on the basis of Policy HE9.2(ii)” Conveniently, REO is not in violation of policy and in effect giving them the right to proceed without obstacle.

A summary of the criteria for demolition under Policy HE9.2(ii) of PPS5 are to prove they are unable to:

  1. find a “new use” for the building
  2. maintain existing building  use
  3. find a charity group interested in the building
  4. get a local group willing to take on the building
  5. market the building – someone could use it for alternative means

The community group Battersea Power Station Company has in fact offered to purchase the building for a nominal sum for a community centre, the building is described as “fairly robust and would be restorable if somebody wanted to.” However, under Policy HE9.2(i), REO claim they will not need to go through the test criteria listed. REO claim they can reject applications for the building arguing “the requirement to market the property is not engaged, since that only relates to Policy HE9.2(ii) and not to Policy HE9.2(i).”

Furthermore, under the new policy, REO “justifies the demolition of the water pumping station by reference to Policy HE9.2(i) of PPS5. Our position is that the demolition of the pumping station is justified by the delivery of the substantial public benefits inherent to the regeneration scheme [REO] are promoting, that outweigh the building’s loss, and that retention of the building would compromise the delivery of the comprehensive scheme.”

REO’s superfluous argument that the water pump station must be demolish or it will jeopardize the entire regeneration project for this area remains unfounded.

In fact, there are approximately 20 hectares of land for redevelopment.  It is perplexing that the developers are not willing to revise their plans for redevelopment to include the heritage site. Alex Baldwin of the Victorian society confirms that the demolition of the site would be a “considerable loss and unnecessary waste of a valuable historic building.” She goes on to say that the Battersea Water Pumping station is “integral to the redevelopment and regeneration of the area.  Demolition would degrade the area of the site and call into question the listing process as a whole.  The developers have not fulfilled the testing criteria for demolition, nor have they gone through re-qualifying their scheme for regeneration.”

Examples of successful redevelopment of historical sites can be found in Nottingham, Crossness in East London, Abbey Mills, and Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. The rejuvenated historical sites have revitalized the community and the same could be done for Battersea. Governments should include historic sites in the redevelopment schemes and not deem them mutually exclusive to the social and economical regeneration linked to a community.

By proceeding with the redevelopment proposed by REO, a precedent is set forth in how to undergo regeneration schemes in London. It is not good practice to use this as a blank slate for developers to demolish historical sites for the profit of a selected few. It is imperative to uphold government policy regarding the demolition of these irreplaceable iconic symbols. Once they are gone, we will never be able to get them back.

Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet – Bill Hicks

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One thought on “Bulldozing Battersea Water Pumping station for profit

  1. This is a pretty scary story. Developers who don’t understand what value is… You can profit more by redeveloping such an icon than by demolishing it. You do not only destroy the bricks etc. but you destroy a cultural historic valuable place which in itself has more potential than you can ever regenerate by piling up new bricks again. Many examples have proven the potential value of industrial heritage.

    I hope they come to reason before it’s to late.

    Oscar Vos

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