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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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.

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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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Sufficient affordable housing in Battersea Power Station plans?

The comments below are from Chelsea Bridge Wharf resident Mike O’Driscoll, who is one of a  significant number of residents to have lodged formal objections against the Battersea Power Station plans.

The issues mentioned in your post concerning formal objections by residents of Chelsea Bridge Wharf to the current development plans for Battersea Power Station are worrying for residents but what is more worrying for the area, and for London as a whole, is that Wandsworth Council and the developers are clearly trying to fudge the issue of how much affordable housing would be included in the development. When so many people cannot afford a home it would be obscene for this development to go ahead without insisting on 50% of homes being affordable.

The Council is however refusing to say how many affordable homes would be included and claims that it is unable to say how many there would be because it is not clear what the demand is! I suggest you write to Mr Bob Leuty at Wandsworth Council (planningapplications@wandsworth.gov.uk) and make it clear that you do not support any development unless it includes 50% affordable housing. You can also contact your Wandsworth Councillor, or your local MP, and ask them what their view is on this before deciding how to vote.

If we allow this development to continue without clarification on the issue of affordable housing then we are simply allowing the developers to make themselves even richer and making this area even less diverse socially.

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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