Save Battersea Pumping Station from demolition

Battersea Pumping Station

Developers REO want to demolish Battersea Pumping Station

Last week’s blog entry on Battersea Pumping Station focused on the frailty of the argument behind demolishing the building by current developers REO / Treasury Holdings. The pump house is a listed building at Grade II and pre-dates the power station by several decades as it was built in 1850. It has suffered from the same neglect that has befallen the power station, and like the sleeping giant that dwarfs it, it has been proclaimed as unrestorable by the developers and therefore fair game to be knocked down to make way for gated communities and a retail hub.

Yet much is being ignored here. The new Planning Policy Statement 5 declares that the council must take into account not only the possibility of sustaining and restoring a building of historical significance, but also weigh up the loss of heritage that would disappear along with the building against the desirability of any new development and the effects of both actions on the local community.

Kew Bridge Engines Trust, 20th Century Society, Battersea Society, SAVE, Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, and also The Victorian Society (whose have posted a formal written objection and recorded an interview with Spectacle on their attitude towards the developers’ plans), are amongst many significant organisations to have questioned the planning application. And with good reason.

The developers are playing the practical usage card, and are shrewdly associating the building’s dereliction with inaction and obsolescence. However, Spectacle followed a team of architects who declared the pumping station structurally sound, and therefore transformation must subjugate destruction according to PPS5, but in what capacity?

Papplewick Pumping Station, above, is an illustration of a successful restoration on multiple levels. Built a few decades later, the water pumps are back in full working order and as a museum the station is an important focus of historical and engineering study. English Heritage, who have for the past few years failed to back any substantial arguments for preservation, have conversely put money into the ongoing restoration of Cross Ness Pumping Station, which includes plans for use in an educational context, and will be finished in 2011.

For Battersea, the local industrial heritage could play a huge role in the redevelopment of the power station site. Other suggestions include an exhibition space for artists and musicians, as well as a provision for housing archive materials indispensable for environmental, archaelogical and architectural study.

Beyond the functional potential for the site, it would reverse years of association with apathy and inertia, and could instead by synonymous with ingenuity, innovation and regeneration, perhaps even ultimately rousing support for a more public discussion on plans for the site’s regeneration.

A decision on the current application will be made by Wandsworth Council in July. It is not too late to register your comment or objection to its demolition.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.

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Scant evidence for destruction of Battersea Pumping Station

The future of Battersea Pumping Station, located next to the Battersea Power Station, is in serious doubt. If the current planning application to redevelop Battersea Power Station and the surrounding land by REO / Treasury Holdings is accepted without alteration by Wandsworth Council in July, the Grade II listed building would be demolished under assertions by the developers that the scheme would not be economically viable with its continued existence.

However, evidence to support this claim is less than accurate. Neither in the private nor public domain have the developers or Wandsworth Council revealed the percentage split of affordable and luxury housing. Without knowing what percentage of the planned housing developments will be “luxury” or affordable apartments it is not possible for REO, let alone English Heritage, to know how much profit the developers will make, therefore arguments over the economic viability of the scheme are spurious. Assuming the developer calculated the minimum amount of “affordable” flats would be needed the issue is not the economic viability of the scheme but the size of REO/Treasury Holdings profit margin.

REO argue that the Pumping Station should be demolished for the “Community benefit” but what they mean is their profit. It is becoming depressingly common for developers to present their economic interests as a community benefit. In this case what is actually meant is that if the developer does not get its way and make a substantial profit then the scheme will not go ahead and the community will suffer decades more planning blight.

Despite formally submitting their application in November 2009 in which they declared that flattening the pumping station would be critical, in February the only definitive number of houses of the 3856 dwellings of the master plan given any ‘status’ whatsoever are the 245 build-to-let houses – classified as non-affordable. As recent as March this year, in a Q & A session with the Planning Director Jeremy Castle, the percentage of affordable housing against non-affordable had still yet to be decided.

English Heritage, an organisation whose official remit is to promote and protect Britain’s historical environment, have effectively given their blessing to REO by deferring any decision-making responsibility to the Local Planning Authority.

In a letter to the Local Planning Authority, Nick Collins stated that although the proposed plans “risk causing harm to the setting”, the decision ultimately rests on assessing whether or not the ‘substantial community benefit’ (community benefit in this case being  private gain) outweighs the loss of the building and whether or not the building could be bought up by another party and reused (you can see the new legislation PPS5 here).

Under this new legislation the council must establish no other organisations are interested in buying the building or that no alternative community use can be found. Battersea Power Station Community Group has registered its interest and is supported by  a number of  local and special interest groups.

The Victorian Society is one of a number of expert groups who are against demolishing  the Pumping Station, yet they have been ignored (see the interview with Alex Baldwin from The Victorian Society here).

Jeremy Castle plans to reveal the official percentage of affordable housing on June 15th – less than a month before Wandsworth Council make their final decision on the application. Aside from the absurdity of demanding a 150 year-old building be torn down because ‘it might be handy’, the relinquishing of accountability by organisations like English Heritage  demonstrates an alarming and depressing deference to private business when they are funded to enforce and support preservation.

The exhausting planning process and massive application documentation helps developers like REO / Treasury Holdings to wear down any resistance and bury the fact that they intend to destroy historically and culturally significant sites without open discussion. As English Heritage have in recent years funded the restoration of Cross Ness Pumping Station, their dereliction of duty and unfounded support for the vandalism of Battersea Pumping Station is curious.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.

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The Victorian Society Object to Power Station Plans

The Victorian Society are the latest organisation to speak out against REO / Treasury Holdings‘ current plans for the re-development of Battersea Power Station. The Conservation Advisor of the organisation, Alex Baldwin, spoke in depth to Spectacle about their rejection of the assertion that the older structures, particularly the old pumping station, need to be pulled down despite their Grade II* Listed status, and her ideas on how the site could be regenerated. You can watch the interview here at Spectacle’s Battersea archive.

Alex also contributed her thoughts to a Planning Resource webzine article about the mixed response to the situation. Her comments are the latest in a growing number of objections to the plans (about which you can also see a presentation by REO here), and evidence that there is likely to be considerable formal resistance to the application.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.

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