Health and safety gone mad?… Events held at Battersea Power Station despite ‘big chunks falling off’ chimneys

The first of Battersea Power Station’s emblematic cream chimneys is likely to be demolished this month by its current owners, the Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), which is part of the Sime Darby consortium. The company claims its intention is to replace the chimneys – which it says are beyond repair (despite evidence to the contrary) – with identical replicas. However both John Broome’s precedent and discrepancies between the company’s reasoning and its actions suggest this might never happen, as, of course, does the commercial potential of the site, without the power station sitting awkwardly in the centre of it.

Footage shows Robert Tincknell, Chief Executive Officer of Battersea Power Station Development Company, insisting that the chimneys have “structurally failed” and that “big chunks are falling off”. However the company continues to lease the site for public events, including Everyman Cinema film screenings and ‘Street Feasts’, held in the shadow of the chimneys Tincknell says are disintegrating. Event-goers have not been told to wear hard hats or other protective gear, but perhaps this is because these things would be useless in the event that an entire chimney is brought down by high wind, as Richard Barrett, an Irish property investor who co-owned Battersea Power Station before it was bought by the Sime Darby consortium, has previously suggested may happen at any time.

The Sime Darby consortium – which has been accused of exploiting the local community at their oil palm plantation in Liberia – have so far put up only £11 million of bond money to guarantee the replacement of the chimneys, a woefully small sum, and one suggested by their own employee, Philip Gullet, Chief Operating Officer at Battersea Power Station Development Company. In addition to this the bond money has been deposited into an account with Malaysian bank CIMB, making it more difficult for Wandsworth Council and English Heritage to access it in the event that Battersea Power Station Development Company default. According to campaigners, it is imperative to its retrieval that the bond money is moved to a British bank account.

In response to these criticisms, Battersea Power Station Development Company have agreed to a meagre compromise; they will demolish one chimney to begin with and must partially rebuild this before they can demolish the other three. This is still flouting the Council’s original rules, which said that the chimneys must be demolished one at a time.
Campaigners believe that partially rebuilding one tower is not enough to guarantee the completion of four new chimneys. They suggest that Battersea Power Station Development Company are clearing the site little by little and point to the fact that, despite owning a vast swathe of riverfront, Battersea Power Station Development Company have removed the power station’s listed cranes purportedly to allow the chimney rubble to be removed by boat. There are concerns that the cranes won’t be brought back, and some consider their removal to be further evidence that Sime Darby have no intention of actually renovating the power station.

However, in an unusually considerate move,Battersea Power Station Development Company have at least set up a helpline number, for those traumatised by the sight of the maimed power station scarring the skyline, perhaps during their daily commute.

Our short video comments on the discrepancy between the developer’s claim that the chimneys are rapidly disintegrating, and their actions in allowing public events to take place on site, directly below the “structurally failed” chimneys. It also includes the helpline number, in case you feel personally disturbed by the destruction of Battersea Power Station.

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Battersea Buddleia Returns

A picture of what is believed to be Buddleia growing beneath Battersea Power Station’s south east chimney taken earlier this month shows the continued degradation of the grade 2 listed building. English Heritage seem to be blasé about the upkeep of the iconic building, having allowed such a large plant to take hold amongst the scaffolding.

Photo courtesy of Keith Garner

Sime Darby, the Malaysian Company who bought the aging building earlier this year, finalised the contract last night. With their plans to regenerate the power station set to start within months.

Despite Sime Darby’s history of global deforestation ( see Friends of the Earth report)  in relation to their Palm Oil business, they have had put little effort into the removal of this particular plant.

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, leader of the consortium, has claimed that the regeneration will produce up to 26,000 jobs. But how long will these jobs remain, and at what expense to the power station itself will this take over cause?

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin claims they will build “a vibrant, accessible and functional town centre for Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea area”. A town centre completely privately owned.

We aim to interview English Heritage about Battersea Power Station, do you have any questions you want posing to them?

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Letter to English Heritage from Battersea Power Station Community Group on future plans

 

Keith Garner has written the letter below on behalf of the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) to English Heritage. It outlines their proposal to purchase the monumental building for £1 and then their community driven plans for the future of the station.

 

12th June 2012
Dr Edward Impey
English Heritage
1 Waterhouse Square
138 – 142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST

Dear Edward,

BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Thank you for calling me last week to discuss Battersea Power Station following our recent letter to Kay Andrews asking her for a meeting. It was good to hear from you again of course, but I was disappointed to hear that Kay Andrews is not able to see us, and that English Heritage does not think it has a role to play in resolving this long-standing issue at this time.

As has been EH’s policy in recent times, you are leaving it to others to come up with solutions. Our most recent initiative – one of many over the last 29 years – was to propose to the administrators to divide Battersea Power Station itself from the South Lambeth Goods Yard site (acquired by John Broome), placing the former in a trust with an endowment, and selling the latter to pay the creditors. The Battersea Power Station Company – a charitable trust we set up in 2002 – offered £1 to take over the building and to open it to the public in the short term. We discussed this last week when you agreed that this sounded like a plausible approach.

Other organisations have also been active in bringing forward initiatives. In April, the Twentieth Century Society organised a symposium to discuss the future of the building. One of the key points of consensus to emerge was desirably of some form of trust ownership, which prompted us to make our bid. Other than the Survey of London personnel, I don’t think English Heritage was represented at the symposium. This was unfortunate, as you would also have seen a very interesting scheme for the building and surrounding area put forward by Marcus Binney of SAVE and Graham Morrison of Allies & Morrison.

The scheme develops ideas in SAVE’s 1981 report (which Graham Morrison also worked on) proposing an amphitheatre in the central boiler house space. This would be unroofed initially using temporary seating similar to that proposed for Olympic events, e.g. A&M’s scheme for Greenwich Park. Longer term, the intention would be to roof the space (an unroofed space would not be a good neighbour in the longer term) and to re-inhabit other parts of the building. Meanwhile the development of the surrounding site would commence.

The scheme would achieve many of the things Battersea Power Station Community Group has advocated over the years. It allows public access to Battersea Power Station. It proposes a sensible phased refurbishment of the building itself and the site around, taking a much longer view than other schemes we have seen. New buildings respect the scale of the Power Station and allow it to continue to exist as an urban monument. The listed Victorian pumping station is also retained. (We would hope of course to see social housing of various kinds as well.)

We also feel that the SAVE/Allies & Morrison scheme is consistent with our proposal to divide the two sites, with the Power Station put into a trust. Indeed, the SAVE/Allies & Morrison scheme might be facilitated if this was done. There is a strong commercial case for SP Setia to put the Power Station into a trust. As a predominantly public building it becomes a “draw” raising the profile of the adjacent commercial site. But at the same time, SP Setia would not be responsible for looking after the building or making it work commercially.

Much of the inflated price of £400m is predicated on having to pay for the “restoration” of the building. This in turn will lead to the over-development of the surrounding site; as we have already seen with the widely condemned Vinoly outline permission. If the obligation to look after the listed building is taken away from SP Setia, then perhaps some height reductions can be negotiated, to the scale A&M propose? Some funding could plausibly come from the HLF instead, the popular Battersea Power Station being a worthy recipient of public money.

There is a further question you should take up with central government, namely the financing of the Northern Line extension. Battersea Power Station Community Group is sceptical as to the necessity of this line, given the two overground stations, plentiful buses etc. But if it is to happen the new owners should not be expected to make a £200m contribution toward the cost of it. The public good here is the preservation of and public access to Battersea Power Station. The new owners should not be encumbered with the additional cost of funding a tube contribution as well.

Surely then, this is an opportunity for English Heritage to influence the future of Battersea Power Station. But there is little time as only 28 days – the ‘due diligence’ period – has been allowed for negotiations. The building is still standing, another over-development has collapsed – as predicted – and the threat to demolish the chimneys is no longer imminent. And there are very positive and possible ideas to save Battersea Power Station as outlined above. With all these factors before us, now would seem to be a good time to meet.

Yours sincerely,
Keith Garner
for Battersea Power Station Community Group
E-mail: keithwgarner@btinternet.com

cc Mr Paul Appleton Allies & Morrison
Brian Barnes MBE BPSCG
Mr Marcus Binney SAVE Britain’s Heritage
Dr Catherine Croft Twentieth Century Society
Lord Alf Dubs

Answer came there none.

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Battersea Power Station: Out of the frying pan into the fire

The horror story continues…

Nightmare on Nine Elm Street

The abysmal Vinoly plans for Battersea Power Station that we had all hoped were finally dead and buried with the collapse of previous owners REO has come back to haunt all who care about the beautiful building and the quality of life for all those living in its shadow and the surrounding area.

Just when you thought it was safe Architect Viñoly has been hired as “creative brain” behind developer Mike Hussey’s plan for a new stadium for Chelsea football club. AAAHHHHHHGGGGG……

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Your TV tonight: The undead Grey Men of Battersea Power Station

On ITV’s London Tonight and LBC radio you can watch or hear Ravi Govindia, the leader of Wandsworth Council who, as former cabinet member for “strategic planning and transportation”, is particularly responsible for the failed private-property owner led regeneration of the area,  trying to defend the borough’s pathetic policy towards the obviously flawed and greedy plans for Battersea Power Station.

Only a few days ago George Osborne and Boris Johnson were doing their best to puff the disastrous scheme which is now as all but dead and buried by the creditors calling in their loans.


For the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) it is just another “new beginning” as the fourth developer limps off stage to boos and jeers.

Keith Garner is also interviewed calling for the whole site to be put into public ownership for a sensible, viable, gradual development of the historic and beautiful building and its surrounding site. An ideal exhibition for industrial power ( see our previous blogs). Keith cites the difference in the approach of Southwark to the other Gilbert-Scott designed river front power station, the highly successful Tate Modern. Through partnerships and a gradual, planned development it shows what Battersea residents could have had these past 30 years.

WATCH: ITV London Tonight on Battersea Power Station debt

Spectacle’s crew were there today too and will be posting soon the bits of the interviews the broadcaster left out. Including an hilarious episode where the owners try to stop ITV filming by shutting the gates. Perhaps their last act.

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Local community want to Purchase Battersea Water Pumping Station

Owners of Battersea Power Station, Treasury Holdings/ REO, have submitted an application (ref 2009/3578) to demolish Grade II listed Battersea Water Pumping Station.  Battersea Power Station Company, a not for profit local organisation set up by members of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, have sent Treasury Holdings/ REO a letter expressing an interest in purchasing the building for local community and heritage use

A copy of the letter can be seen below, if you support this letter please comment below and directly to Wandsworth Borough Planning department

8th June  2010

Mr Jeremy Castle
Treasury Holdings
Battersea Power Station
Kirtling Street
London SW8

“Dear Jeremy,

BATTERSEA WATER PUMPING STATION

I am writing concerning your application submitted last year for listed building consent (ref 2009/3578) to demolish Battersea Water Pumping Station.

Members of Battersea Power Station Community Group set up this company in 2002 as a not for profit organisation to carry out useful work in the Queenstown ward, one of the most socially disadvantaged areas of the London Borough of Wandsworth. The company has broad objectives, including: “The preservation of buildings or sites of historic, architectural or industrial importance, in particular Battersea Power Station and Battersea Water Pumping Station”.

In pursuit of this objective, we wrote to Wandsworth Council in January to object to your application. (Our letter of 19th January.) We have also written to English Heritage. We don’t know the outcome of Wandsworth and English Heritage’s deliberations at this stage.

In considering this application however, both organisations will have to take account of government guidance on demolition containing in the new Planning Policy Statement 5. As you know PPS 5 includes guidance for situations where the loss of a “heritage asset” is proposed. This is contained in paragraphs HE9.1 to HE 9.5, requiring alternative uses to be considered, and for charitable or public ownership to be considered as well.

Paragraph HE 9.3 specifically says “… local planning authorities should require the applicant to provide evidence that other potential users have been sought through appropriate marketing and that reasonable endeavours have been made to seek grant funding for the heritage asset’s conservation and to find charitable or public authorities willing to take on the heritage asset.”.

To assist you in this process therefore, we confirm that we do wish to acquire Battersea Water Pumping Station from you. We are willing to raise funds to repair the building, using the Architectural Heritage Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other local sources. Indeed on 10th May, BPSCG members attended a seminar at the HLF about funding for Industrial, Maritime and Transport Heritage projects in London.

We saw in our recent visit to the Pumping Station on 11th March (which you kindly arranged for us) that the brick structure of the building is fundamentally sound. The building is eminently reusable in any number of socially productive ways, that would far outweigh the nominal benefits of building another hotel, office building, or shopping mall on this area of the site.

Clearly there have been years of neglect. The guidance note accompanying PPS 5 (paragraph 96) is clear that the purchase price should be reduced to take account of a backlog of any repairs. We are therefore wiling to take the building from you for a sum of £1. We would also ask for a small donation from you to assist with emergency repairs, and to serve as matched funding in any approach to funding bodies.

We also consider that the narrow strip of land extending from the pumping station to the river should stay with the pumping station to facilitate river related use such as a boat house. The building was separately owned by the water board until the 1980’s on a plot of land with a river frontage. We feel that building and its site should be preserved intact. This strip is at the north east corner of your site and we don’t see that its forfeiture would in be to the detriment of your wider plans. Indeed, it could serve as a useful buffer between your site and the refuse transfer station.

Aside for the inherent industrial and historic importance of the building, that overwhelmingly justifies its retention, there are many social benefits to our company taking over this building. For instance in enabling people from the estates on the south side of Battersea Park Road to take part in river related activity of all kinds.

Clearly bringing this building back into use on the short to medium term will also give positive signals about the viability of the site as a whole to potential investors. They will see that things are actually happening, rather than the procrastination and delay which has become the norm. This can only be in your interest as well.

I hope you find the foregoing of interest. Perhaps we discuss this proposal in more detail when we meet on 14th June, which I am very much looking forward to.”

Yours sincerely,

Keith Garner
Director

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