Battersea Power Station – “London Only” sales claim is Bogus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALondon, in recent years, has seen a boom in foreign property investment. With various far Eastern economies generating a new class of super-rich, London’s property market bubble is seen as a safe cash haven for this elite. According to Savills, international premium property retailer, 50% of the capital’s prime central homeowners is now dominated by overseas investors, which is furiously contributing to property price inflation.

Naturally, with Battersea Power Station being such an historically renowned architectural and industrial, Grade II listed, British icon, many are wishing to get a slice of the 400ft riverside views. Malasyian developers, Sime Darby, aim to create 3,500 new homes in 15 years, and have already sold nearly all of the 866 luxury apartments of the initial Circus West (or Phase 1) project, generating $1 billion prior to even being built.

However, much contention surrounded the project when Sime Darby refused to release what percentage of their buyers were domestic or international. With property shows for the Battersea homes, which range from £365,000 per studio flat to £6million per penthouse, advertising in China, Russia and Malaysia it is now clear that around 55% of the homes, went to foreign money before even appearing in the pages of Property Week in Blighty.

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This flew in the face of London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who had previously pledged that all property developed within the Power Station would be offered to Londoners first. Slightly perversely, the lack of priortisation for local buyers has been marketed as an apparent strain on London’s unaffordable housing problems, despite some penthouse suites retailing for up to £30million. As a result, developers have recently made a big song and dance about the London Launch of the Phase 2 development. These properties are intended to be exclusively on offer to UK residents before they are made globally available. The Battersea Power Station website encourages visitors to “Register an Interest” and Rob Tincknell, CEO of Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), recently claimed that:

“There has been a lot of comment recently about London’s housing problems and we believe the only way to try and solve this is to build great homes and create a community that people actually want to live in”

However, this PR stunt has recently been unearthed with a simple phone call to BPSDC’s sales team. Upon being deciphered as an authentic potential buyer, the mole was told categorically that while there is a strict London-only launch of the Phase 2 properties on 1st May 2014, overseas investors are more than welcome to purchase the prospective homes if they are in the country or through their UK based agents. Therefore demonstrating that the press have once again been romanced into believing that developments of one of the greatest icons in British industrial history will be more than a juicy, international investment for oligarchs and millionaires. They have let this charade by developers go unchallenged and have reported it verbatim, letting our beloved Battersea Power Station slip further and further into flipping international hands.

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Next victim Battersea Power Station: the cranes

The new owners want to remove the listed cranes in front of the Power Station in order to use the jetty for the removal of spoil from tunnelling the Northern Line Extension ( NLE ). While it might be necessary to dismantle the cranes in order to restore there is no need to tie the timetable to the NLE works. The NLE will take years to complete even if it happens. Like the Euston Arch there is a real danger once removed they will never be put back. There is half a mile of river front where a more suitable purpose built jetty could be situated. It looks like yet another ploy to slowly clear the site of any historic or heritage obstacles to maximising profits- see demolition by stealth.

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Coal was usually brought to the Battersea Power Station by collier ships, and unloaded by cranes, which are still intact on the station’s riverfront. These two cranes were used to unload coal from barges for Battersea Power Station, and despite 25 years of disuse are in remarkably complete condition. But obviously the owners of the Battersea Power Station don’t care much about that. They’ve already got permission to take the cranes down.

The jetty facilities used two cranes to offload coal, with the capacity of unloading two ships at one time, at a rate of 480 tonnes an hour. Coal was also delivered by rail to the east of the station using the Brighton Main Line which passes near the site. Coal was usually delivered to the jetty, rather than by rail. A conveyor belt system was then used to take coal to the coal storage area or directly to the station’s boiler rooms. The conveyor belt system consisted of a series of bridges connected by towers. The coal storage area was a large concrete box capable of holding 75,000 tonnes of coal. This had an overhead gantry with a conveyor belt attached to the conveyor belt system, for taking coal from the coal store to the boiler rooms

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Now, the cranes will be facing demolishing. Even though they’re part of the listed Battersea Power Station and mentioned in the listing description:

”Subsidiary features: To the N on a jetty parallel to the river wall there are two cranes which were used to unload coal from collier boats. While of lesser significance, they were integral parts of the original complex and are now rare riverside features.”

The cranes complement the Battersea Power Station and help to explain its purpose and function. Other industrial archeology has already been lost, notably the travelling coal conveyor (dismantled by Parkview in 1995) and the raking conveyors into the building.

They should receive extra protection given these other losses.

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Will the chimneys be demolished all at once?

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There is a growing worry about the survival of the chimneys on Battersea Power Station. While expert opinion says they could be repaired the developers insist they have to be demolished and replaced with replicas. To avoid a repeat of the roof situation – ( see Demolition by Stealth)  where Bloom, a previous owner, took the roof off and then claimed he could not afford to replace it- planning permission was only given to demolish and rebuild the chimneys one by one, but now it seems like it is going to be a different story.

South London Press wrote an article in their newspaper this week about the fact that Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) are pushing towards knocking all the chimneys down at once. This action is something that English Heritage has warned about, since it might result in the chimneys never being rebuilt. Now on the other hand are BPSDC, English Heritage and Wandsworth council in discussion about removing the clause in the building contract that requires the chimneys being removed and rebuilt one by one. English Heritage have not been able to reassure Battersea Power Station Community Group that they are not willing to change their view on the demolition of the chimneys.

BPSDC was claiming in an exhibition last week that replacing the chimneys one by one would be too time consuming and would delay the rebuilding and restoration of the power station.

Wandsworth council claims that BPSDC are examining different ways to rebuild the chimneys, but if there would be a change in the rebuilding strategy, it would have to be approved from the council in consultation with English Heritage.

Is there still not a risk that the chimneys will not be rebuilt if they are taken down all at once? Since it is cheaper, and possible, to repair them rather then to replace them, why would a company who are driven by profit decide to do something that is more expensive? Is it not proof enough to suspect that if the chimneys are gone all at once, there will be a great risk that they are never rebuilt, and rendered historically worthless the power station will be demolished as well.

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The new development in Battersea “is not” only for the rich

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The redevelopment of Battersea Power station has started and as we have written many times before, we are very concerned what the impact of the new neighborhood might have on the existing community.

30-40 percent of the flats have been sold to foreign investors, said the CEO of the new Battersea Power Station Development Company, Robert Tincknell to the Evening Standard last week. He did also mentioned that even if they were bought up by foreign investors, most of the investors will probably rent the flats to londoners. Something that would contribute to the vibrant community they hope to build. He also believes that the new development will be good for local business and that they are trying to be a part of the existing community.

The question still remains, would not a new development with expensive flats make the rent for existing houses higher? Tincknell says that he does not want Battersea Power Station to only be a place for the rich, but with the building plans they got, does it really sound like a place that is not only for the rich?

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The effects of palm oil-plantations has on Orangutans

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As we have written before, one of the new owners of Battersea Power Station, Sime Darby, is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil and has been accused of illegal logging in the rain forest of Borneo and Sumatra as well as destroying the habitat of the endangered Orangutan.

The UK government has voted to offer subsides to power stations for the burning of large portions of palm oil and other biofuels. An increased demand for palm oil poses a big threat to rain forest and the Orangutans habitat.

Famous British author of fantasy novels, Terry Pratchett, visited Borneo in 1994 and fell in love with the Orangutans. Recently he returned for a BBC-documentary, Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction, to see how the orangutans turned out.

To see what effects palm oil-plantations have on these endangered animals, please watch Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction.

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Is the new Power Station scheme to change people’s quality of life?

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Rob Tincknell was interviewed in The Standard, Hong Kong’s biggest circulation English daily, about the plans for Battersea Power Station earlier this month. The power station was bought by three Malaysian companies, SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employee’s Provident Fund, in June last year. Tincknell said that the Malaysian’s vision for the site is better and different from the previous schemes, since this one is bigger and it is going to influence people’s quality of life.

Tincknell failed to mention that people’s quality of life is not only going to change for the better. Like we have mentioned before, many in the nearby communities are people on low incomes, and with a luxury estate just across the road from their homes the rents will rise and their quality of life will get worse.

Developers who want to attract really wealthy buyers have to build super-size apartment buildings with flats bigger then 6,000 square feet. The new penthouses in Battersea are planned to be 8,000 square feet, a size aimed to appeal more to the rich rather then the members of the Battersea community.

Tincknell also mentioned that no other plans have had a good solution to the public transport, but this scheme is planning to extend the Northern Line with public money, a 1 billion loan from UK government to Transport for London.

Two things are interesting with this statement. First of all, the previous owners of Battersea Power Station, who Tincknell also worked for, were the one’s who planned the extension of the Northern Line. Second, the owners were also suppose to pay for the extension as a contribution towards section 106- planning gain. Somewhere down the line the private-funding of the underground extension has turned in to a public-funding.

In the end Tincknell said that tourists want to come and see things that are authentic, and he means that the Power Station surrounded by ugly new buildings will give “authenticity” to the place. The only question is, will Battersea Power Station survive after its chimneys have been taken down to be rebuild, and how much of its authenticity will it be able to keep?

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Battersea Power Station only a place for the rich?

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Supposedly, Battersea Power Station is getting a new life. The vision is of a lively community where people can contact each other through their own social networks,  meet their neighbours in memberships clubs, small children  splash in a pool while their mums chat, shoppers cruise cafes and exclusive shops unique to the area- for some a nice vision.

A marketing person’s image of the perfect place to live, why would you ever want to move from one of the top five places in London? What can possibly be wrong with a community like this?

One problem can be that the first 800 flats are being sold off plan to rich people in Asia. Even if the plan is to build 3,500 new homes, when a forth of the houses are being sold to people who probably will not live there most of the time, will that really contribute to a lively neighbourhood?

An other question that needs to be raised is what is going to happen to the existing communities in Battersea? With luxury estates being built in the area, bringing expensive shops with them, the rents of the properties in the surrounding areas will probably be rise substantially. Especially if they succeed in building this community for rich people, the demand for apartments will rise and once again the rents will get higher.

With many people in the neighbouring estates, such as the Patmore estate, being low-income, a rent increase would be devastating. This would lead to most of the people being forced to move, but the question is to where? And is it really fair to force people who served and have been a part of a community to leave it just because of the effects from the luxury buildings across the road. Especially since almost a forth of the flats will not be sold to people in London who needs a place to live.

So one person’s idea of the perfect community is a nightmare for others.  Is it really worth the price? And do we really want to live in a world where some people are worth more than other just based on money?

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“New” idea to turn Battersea Power Station in to a rollercoaster


The “new” idea of a roller coaster wrapped around the power station.


A similar idea but from 1988

Wired Magazine wrote earlier this week about who the Architecture firm Atelier Zündel Cristea (AZC) had won a competition hosted by ArchTriumph. The competition was to use the Power Station as inspiration to imagine a new Museum of Architecture.

AZC idea was to build a roller coaster around the Power station, add some new floors, have galleries inside and use the roof for exhibitions on architecture.

The idea of turning the Power Station into a roller coaster is not new. It is an old idea from Margaret Thatcher’s eighties that thankfully never happened.

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Palm oil biofuel is endangering the homes of Orangutans

The UK Government are proposing to support the burning of 500,000 tonnes of bio liquid per year in power stations. The largest part of this fuel will be palm oil, since it is the cheapest vegetable oil. One such Combined Heat and Power Station is planned for the Battersea Power Station site.

Even though some bio liquids can be good and environmentally friendly, the use of palm oil ruins the rainforest and the home of orangutan, an animal that today is nearly extinct.

We have written before how Sime Darby, new owners of Battersea Power Station, have carried out illegal logging in rain forests and endangered the homes of orangutans. So Sime Darby, with their production of palm oil,  is not only a threat for Battersea Power Station, but also for orangutans, the rainforest and in the end our environment.

 

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Should We Trust Sime Darby with Battersea Power Station?

The Malasian company Sime Darby is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil. They also make up 40% of the comglomerate which now owns and is redeveloping the Batersea Power station and surounding area.

The company has been surrounded by controversy over its ethical practices. According to a recent Friends of the Earth report Sime Darby has carried out illegal logging in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra, home to endangerd speicies such as the Orangutan, to make way for palm oil plantations.
Sime Darbys Palm Oil opperations in Liberia are equally dubious with the company accused of swallowing up farmlands and forests used by local communities to sustain their livelihoods.
The company has been exposed for running an aggressive Greenwash campaign to try and “counter the negative perceptions surrounding the Palm Oil Industry”. The campaign involved the funding of a series of TV shows which were shown on CNBC and the BBC. The films where presented as current affairs when in fact the company which produced them; the FBC Group (ironically standing for Fact Based Media), where in the pay of Sime Darby and the Malaysian government.

Sime Darbys track record show it to be a company with little concern for local communities or the environment. They are driven only by profit and to this end will spend millions to appear “ethical” and “Sustainable” whilst continuing with business as usual. This film asks if we should trust such a company with the redevelopment of one of Britain’s most famous and Iconic buildings.

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