Battersea Bulletin 28 – FoE claim Sime Darby, Malaysian co-owner of Battersea Power Station, involved in illegal logging

 Sime Darby, a member of the Malaysian consortium
which recently took over Battersea Power Station, has
been involved in illegal logging in the rain forests of
Malaysia and Indonesia, according to a 2010 report by
Friends of the Earth, ” ‘Sustainable’ palm oil driving deforestation. Biofuel crops, indirect land use change and emissions”, Friends of the Earth Europe, 2010

Download pdf Battersea_Bulletin_28

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Battersea Redevelopment Scheme

Wandsworth Borough Council recently acknowledged the dedicated hard work of six volunteers. See this article from the Council to read about these people. Their commitment is a shining example of the potential to locally promote the concept of opportunity.

That is in stark contrast to the proposed redevelopment scheme around Battersea Power Station. If the scheme is to go ahead the lowest sale price will be in the region of £700,000. It is not designed for local growth; for one, the average London resident cannot come close to affording the prices, and, secondly, the primary purpose is to attract eastern investors. Have a read of this article from the Architect’s Journal. Battersea is a borough proud of its heritage, including of course a long-standing association with the world famous power station. As the AJ article also highlights, local residents’ view of the power station will be severely disrupted. The redevelopment scheme, apart from damaging the view of the power station, will impose a mono-culture of gentrification resembling Canary Wharf.

London Mayor Boris Johnson hailed the scheme as the greatest source of growth in London since Canary Wharf. Indeed attracting foreign investment, as the scheme will likely do, would be of huge benefit to the financial district. However, it is difficult to see the economic benefits on a local level. Johnson stated his target of creating 25,000 jobs but any involvement in the development’s construction appears unlikely or low key since the corporate firms involved will bring in employees from exterior regions and any local work would merely be temporary. Ultimately, the scheme will work to spread the social divide that has been so horribly exposed in post-2008 Britain.

Anyhow, the scheme cannot progress in the first place without the long-planned extension of the Northern line to the Battersea power station. There is no doubt of the necessity to improve Battersea’s transport links and in recent days the matter has made headlines following Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of a £1billion loan for the extension to happen. This, as we see it, is questionable. If the government had full confidence in the extension, would they not have made a direct investment, expressing their belief in the economic benefits that it should guarantee?

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“Profit, profit, profit! Where do they mention heritage, heritage, heritage?”

Disgruntled Twitter groups such as SAVEThe4Chimneys!, in support of preserving Battersea’s iconic Power Station, are campaigning online against plans to knock down and ‘replace’ the Power Station chimneys.

A Malaysian firm, Sime Darby – responsible for the deforestation of the Orangutan habitat for palm oil – was one of the organisations that bought the 39-acre south-west London site in July for £400m; they are now putting forward plans to destroy these British historical icons. Read more

In November 2008, Red Apes Org, a respected group that campaigns to protect  the orangutans of Malaysia described Ahmad Zubir Murshid as ‘evil’. The group says that oil palm cultivation is a grave threat to the survival of orangutans and that Sime Darby is a part of the problem. Read more

Pink Floyd’s next album cover perhaps?

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Chimneys standing firm

REO continue to shoot themselves in the – what by now must be, given their perilously brittle financial circumstances, bare – feet. Their persistent corporate prostitution of the inner sanctuary of the Battersea Power Station (for yous philistines who don’t know is now renamed THE BOILER ROOM) rips away any last layer of credibility from the assertion that the iconic chimneys of Battersea Power Station should be demolished for safety reasons.

Photo taken from beyond the danger zone

This declaration is a major part of REO’s planning application, stating that the chimneys are monstrously dangerous actually, given that they could fall down imminently. This is the reason, according to Planning Director of REO and Treasury Holdings Jeremy Castle, that there is a strict thirty metre exclusion zone around each of the chimneys at each event. Quite how they maintain this INSIDE the structure of the power station is a mystery.

What undermines these claims is that there have been a slew of conferences, dinners and even large scale events in and around the power station throughout the year; from the recent Red Bull X-Fighter Motorcross event to the upcoming SHINE benefit dinner in November (where a canopy and walkway to access The Boiler Room will be constructed for guests). These events, inclusive of the Paul McCartney gig inside the station back in July, would not be permitted to take place if there was any truth to these safety concerns, so this fallacy of collapsing chimneys is but a clever marketing shoehorn to strengthen the application process. Which ironically of course, will be slowed down to increase the value of the land if the application is accepted.

This flagrant contradiction only adds to the  controversy surrounding REO, given that they are over a billion in debt, unable to pay interest to creditors, heavily criticised by heritage institutions such as the Victorian Society, Kew Bridge Engine Trust and the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, and planning an unwanted underground line extension. The current plans for the station, which you can read more about on our Spectacle Battersea Blog, also include planning requests for an office and leisure complex, riverside access, a hotel, and 3,700 luxury flats.

To send in a written objection to the plans to demolish the station and its neighbouring Grade II* listed sister pumping house, address it to Bob Leuty at Wandsworth Council, planning applications@wandsworth.gov.uk . The deadline for written objections is 5pm tomorrow (30th September), and you can also contact your Wandsworth Councillor and ask them what their view is on this before deciding how to vote.

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Nine Elms Regeneration – involving local residents

The invitation to the information meeting at the R.O.S.E. Community Clubroom states: “It’s clear that the area will be transformed and we want you, as local residents, to be involved in this process.” As for the first part of that sentence, we cannot argue with this. It is clear that the decision have been made, where and by whom is not entirely clear. Maybe it was made by Transport for London, who want to build an extension of the Northern line. Or by the American diplomatic corps, who want to build their embassy in the area. Or maybe by Real Estate Opportunities, the troubled owners of the Battersea Power Station. One thing is clear though, it was not the local residents who made that decision. There were some presentations, a short Q&A and residents were invited to sign up for updates on the regeneration. These updates may concern them, but they certainly don’t involve them in the decision making process.

The event was well attended, with about 40 people filling all the available seating. There were some displays with impressive looking posters illustrating the plans. There were drinks and nibbles. The plans involve 15,000 new homes and 25,000 new jobs. Those numbers are impressive. There are also plans to build one elementary school and one library. 15,000 homes and one school, the numbers don’t exactly seem to add up. Either someone needs to go to school to develop their mathematical skills, or the calculations are correct and the developers aren’t expecting many children to be raised in their new flats. Perhaps these new properties are being built to house so-called DINKS, or Dual-Income-No-Kids for those of you less familiar with yuppy terminology. Walking through the neighbourhood of the R.O.S.E. Community Clubroom with large estates and a wealth of playgrounds, you can see why the DINKS wouldn’t want to live here.

As for the 25,000 new jobs, it is important to remember that there are already 12,000 jobs, mainly in the industrial area along Stewarts Road. In the presentation it was made clear that those industries would have to move. While at the same time vague promises were made to keep the industry in the borough (with no indication as to where it should go instead) and that an effort would be made “to preserve as much as we can”. Later in the meeting, discussing the lengthy period of 15-20 years the project is planned for, one of the reasons given for this extended span of time was the existing leases.

Reading between the lines, this seems to indicate that the local industry will disappear. And we can subtract most of those 12 000 existing jobs from the 25 000 planned ones. Now the two biggest prospective employees will be the American Embassy and the Battersea Power Station. The American Embassy will bring their own employees and looking at the plans for th Battersea Power Station with up-scale office spaces, one cannot help but wonder how many of the industrial workers will find jobs in the planned (and not yet existing) offices.

Now the construction itself will bring some work to the area. The number 40 000 floated through the room for a while, until a local resident pointed out that those 40,000 jobs refer to a period of 20 years in an industry where contracts usually don’t last any longer than 3 years. So this number is misleading, as it doesn’t mean there will be 40,000 jobs at any point in time. Also if you count each contract, one worker will be getting 6-7 3 year contracts. Each contract term is counted as a job, but calculating actuall employment numbers they are more likely to be around 6,000.

Besides the number games there were whole presentations which merely seemed to consist of quoting a number of “documents” and “frameworks”, including the London Plan including “designated opportunity areas”, the “Opportunity Area Planning Framework”, “Local Development Framework, “Site Specific Allocation Document” and many more. Not having read any of those, I ended up more confused than in the beginning with an unsettling feeling of disempowerment: There is no way I will find the time to read all those, even less understand their terminology. But if I don’t, I won’t understand what it is exactly that is being developed and proposed. Referencing this mass of documentation had one effect only: dispiriting an delegitimising any opions or critiques by local residents and raising a windscreen of referential material that is cited as authority. Here the event resembled an excercise in exclusion rather than any real attempts at involving local residents or trying to set up a democratic and accountable process to find a solution that will actually respond to the needs of and benefit the local population.

Thankfully there was some time for questions and they came plentiful. How the project was benefiting local residents, if their homes were due to be displaced was one of them. The councilor had never heard about this before. But as the petition to save Tideway Village states:

Now yet another very special London gem is under threat: Tideway Village and the Nine Elms Pier Boat Community may disappear forever, possibly as early as March 2011. Tucked away next to the Battersea Power station the 30+ houseboats with their inhabitants form a diverse vibrant community framed by old boats, water wildlife and nature, dearly loved and frequently photographed by passers by.

The current plans being submitted for the construction of ‘Tideway Wharf’ by St James (Berkeley Homes) proposes a development that would replace this special corner of London with cloned, soulless structures, erected in pursuit of profit at the expense of beauty and diversity.

You can find out more about Tidway Village on their website, and sign the petition online.

The question about how Climate Change was swiftly answered, stating that the whole project would be build to highest standards. The question whether projects on such a scale can possibly be sustainable, remained unasked.

When Brian Barnes pointed out that he’d been promised work at the Power Station as a young man, and has been through three proposals, and now, after his hair has gone gray, he is still being promised work at the Battersea Power Station – in twenty years time…

The point was raised that the proposal did not mention affordable housing and that it looked like local people were being “re-developed out.” The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign asked that the local council stand up for Battersea resident Shaker Aamer who is still being held in Guantanamo illegally. The question was raised whether it was right to invite the US Embassy into the borough, as long as Shaker Aamer ist still not home.

The organisers had pointed out that the meeting was being recorded, and you could see quite a few staff sitting around the edges and scribbling hastily. They will be able to answer all questions and refute any criticism raised soon, it seemed like an excercise in preparing notes for future public debate, to be prepared for any objections that might come up.

notes: starbucks and other big corp chains coming in is bad for local business as well as atmosphere of area, artifical venues and retail outlets that won’t work, just as unreal and illusionary as any other proposal during the last 20 years,

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