Battersea Power Station Chimneys demolition- History repeating

URGENT NEWS ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION CHIMNEY DEMOLITION

Thursday 12th June representatives of the BPSCG (Battersea Power Station Community Group) met with Paul Landsberg of Wandsworth Borough Council Planning Department to discuss their concerns regarding the legal and financial protections in place ahead of the imminent demolition of the chimneys, in particular whether the bond is in force and whether it is large enough to cover the cost of rebuilding the chimneys should the developer fail to replace them.  What they discovered was deeply disturbing:

The bond money is held in a Malaysian bank, CIMB
The value of the bond for the reconstruction of three and a half chimneys is only £11million.
The value of the bond is based on an estimate supplied by Philip Gullet of the Battersea Power Station Development Company.
This estimate has not been independently checked by cost consultants employed by Wandsworth Council or English Heritage.
The contract sum for the demolition and rebuilding of the chimneys was redacted from the copy of the contract sent to Wandsworth. So it is not possible to compare demolition costs against rebuilding.
The Council does not know if the bond is signed and in force, although the reconstruction contract starts next Monday.

HISTORY REPEATING…

This is all the more alarming in light of what happened when John Broome, the first failed developer of the site, took down but never replaced the west wall and roof, as it remains to this day. The council’s own report in 1989 criticised the woeful lack of safeguards and- some would say- gullibility of the planning officers.

According to Battersea Power Station Community Group the bond money should be held in a British bank if Wandsworth and English Heritage are to have any chance of getting at it in the event of a default.  The total value of the bond also needs to be increased substantially if it is to be able to cover the reconstruction of three and a half chimneys, if a default occurs.

With the chimneys reconstruction contract about to start, it is clear that Wandsworth Council and English Heritage are not protecting our cultural heritage -either in checking the proposed value of the bond or making sure the contract is signed and enforceable before the demolition and reconstruction project starts.

With interest rates about to rise, the possibility of the project failing yet again is increasing by the day.  If this happens when the chimneys are down, and it turns out the bond money isn’t there (as was the case in 1989 after Broome went bust)  the chimneys will never be rebuilt.

We need to rescue Battersea Power Station from these shameless, grey, dozing men who will sell our industrial heritage for peanuts and the enrichment of foreign “investors”. Keep an eye on the revolving door!

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URGENT-Save Battersea Water Pumping Station from demolition

We, the undersigned, ask Wandsworth Council to refuse listed building consent application 2014/1236 for the demolition of Battersea Water Pumping Station.

Battersea Water Pumping Station is the oldest surviving water pumping station in London.

It was built in 1840 for the Southwark Water Company and extended in 1856.  It housed a series of Cornish engines used for pumping water from the Thames.  At one time the pumping station housed the largest Cornish engine ever built, with a 112″ diameter cylinder.

The building was listed Grade II in 1994.

The pumping station commemorates the rich industrial heritage of the Nine Elms and North Battersea.  It has great potential to encouraging young people to think of science, technology and engineering as important skills worth acquiring.

Retaining and preserving the pumping station would attract visitors to the site and therefore increase footfall for the new facilities that will be open to the public.  It is in everybody’s interest that it is preserved.

We ask Wandsworth Council to initiate discussions with the owner/developer so that the development can be reconfigured to incorporate the pumping station

We further ask Wandsworth Council to convene negotiations between the owner/developer and the Battersea Power Station Company Ltd (a local registered charity) to allow the pumping station to be passed into the latter’s ownership for £1, to allow them to renovate the pumping station with Lottery funding.

Sean Creighton & Keith Garner

June 2014

Stop this cultural vandalism for profit.

PLEASE Sign the petition

For more blogs on the Battersea Water Pumping Station

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Industrial heritage “As important as our country homes and castles”

A new survey from English Heritage has found that listed industrial buildings are at the highest risk of severe neglect. Around 3% of standard grade I and II* listed buildings in England are considered to be at risk, while a staggering 11% of industrial grade I and II* listed buildings are in the same category.

Grade I and II* industrial listed buildings in England cover a variety of structures from across the industrial spectrum including Battersea Power Station.

According the English Heritage the problem is not a lack of appreciation from the public. A poll of public attitudes carried out on their behalf shows that 86% of the public agree that it is important we value and appreciate industrial heritage and 80% think it is just as important as our castles and country houses.

Despite English Heritage’s obvious concerns about the future of listed industrial heritage sites, it seems that they have some problems categorising the status of some of these sites.

Their 2011 Heritage At Risk Register lists both Battersea Power Station and the Victorian Battersea Pumping Station as “Priority D”. This means “Slow decay; solution agreed but not yet implemented”. Which is ambiguously incorrect on both fronts.

Battersea Pumping station:

The report does correctly state that this historic Victorian Pumping station is going to demolished, despite widespread and authoritative opposition, after a planning application was approved by Wandsworth Council in November 2010. So what English Heritage really mean is, it’s going to be knocked down but it hasn’t been done yet. The pump station is crucial, the only reason to demolish it  is it allows the power station owners REO,  to maximise profits. Apparently completely ignoring Malcolm Tucker of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society  who previously made it clear “that it should be possible to incorporate the conserved building within the scheme.”

Battersea Power Station:

Again the report offers clarity by stating “fresh planning and listed building applications approved 2010 subject to legal agreement for restoration, extension and conversion of Power Station to provide retail, residential flats, business, cultural, hotel and conference facilities.”

There are two problems here: 1, “D” has been the status of the power station for decades now and little has changed. 2, the fact that legal agreement is required means that a solution has not been agreed.

Priority D is therefore the developers ideal status. Using the “big bang theory of redevelopment” implementation of the “solution” can be almost permanently postponed. Rather than phased conservation and restoration the heavily indebted REO insists their preposterous scheme to “save” the power station depends of a new tube line being dug, which of course will never happen.  They claim that their “solution” to restoration depends on the creation of a whole new urban area- a scheme that looked unlikely even in the height of the property boom.

Meanwhile the building falls into decay and eventually will require demolishing for safety reason giving the developer a clear conscience and nice clear piece of land to build on. Never mind that the nation loses one of its most iconic industrial buildings that are ‘as important as our castles and country homes”.

Of course the developers could “moth ball” both buildings until such time that a genuinely appropriate and viable solution comes along, but there is no need to speculate on why they won’t do that.

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Battersea Power Station: an open letter to the Science Museum

thinks..one day all this will be allowed to rot...

Keith Garner is a Battersea-based architect and member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group who has recently addressed an open letter to the new head of the Science Museum, Ian Blatchford, proposing a collaborative arrangement between private developers and public institutions to secure the future of the Battersea Power Station.

It has been suggested several times that parts of the Station, especially the famous ‘A’ Station Turbine Hall and Control Room, would work well as a museum of industry or science, and this proposal was raised again at a lecture on the future of Battersea Power Station delivered by architecture historian Gavin Stamp recently. After attending the lecture, Keith drafted a letter to Ian Blatchford proposing the idea of a collaborative effort between the Science Museum and developers.

Battersea Power Station’s owners, Treasury Holdings, are currently in financial difficulty because of the Irish banking crisis and it looks likely that they will soon be forced to sell to another private developer, and there’s little to suggest that a new private owner would fare any better at Battersea Power Station than their three predecessors.

A joint venture would not only guarantee public access to the BPS, but also give private developers a greater chance of success in their plans for the site.

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Battersea Power Station history from the 30s to 1983

The Vauxhall Society reprints an extract from  ‘Battersea Power Station – 50 Years of Service – A Short History’ first published by CEGB Public Relations Branch in 1983.

The Vauxhall Society is the civic consultative group covering the London parliamentary constituency of Vauxhall, which extends from north of Waterloo to Brixton, Clapham, and Stockwell and Vauxhall, as well as the neighbouring districts of Southwark and Wandsworth.

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For more history of the power station click here
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Battersea Power Station- a tragi-comedy of errors

here today...

Battersea Power Station- a tragi-comedy of errors.

by our theatre critic BabyLonDon

Last night’s Wandsworth Borough Council Planning Committee meeting to approve the demolition of the Victorian Battersea Pumping Station and the demolition (and supposed replacement) of the iconic power station chimneys was the best show in town- Dickens in modern dress that occasionally lapsed into panto. The farce played to a packed house – with the corridors full of (vested?) interested parties straining to hear the proceedings over the PA.

The rather predictable plot- a variation on the turkeys voting for Christmas story -had a committee clearly determined to vote in favour spending three hours going through the massive planning application with just one dissenting voice of reason, played by a rather hammy councillor Tony Belton, pointing out the blindingly obvious flaws and unfeasibility of the scheme.

The real drama and humour lay in the fact that the committee seemed oblivious to the subplot- that the developers, REO (Treasury Holdings UK), are massively in “toxic” debt and in effect owned by the Irish tax payers via  NAMA and will do nothing but continue to demolish what little is left on the site and then “flip it”- selling it on as an empty brown field site for river front luxury development.

REO were unlucky that when the music of the property boom stopped they were left without a chair, but lucky enough to have their biggest non-Irish asset located in Wandsworth, infamous for having allowed the power station to fall into its current state of near dilapidation and for waving through truly hideous and desolate riverside developments.

There was something distasteful in the pathos of the affable officer’s naive presentation of the nonsensical scheme as from the public gallery hard nosed and cash hungry developers salivated at the easy meal they were shortly to enjoy.

There were comic moments as the “power dressed” committee members seemed to be made up of people who were in thrall to the promised dream of capitalism but had no clue about business. They dismissed the very real credibility gaps in the developers “vision”, enthusiastically hanging the whole wobbly edifice on the “promise” that these mega debtors (or at least Irish toxic debt vehicle NAMA) would stump up over 200 million pounds for the Northern Line Extension, or as it is known locally the “Ghost train to nowhere”. Even if this phantom train ride were real it would not happen for years even if it all went to plan… it was an evening of “even ifs”.

One comedic highlight was the officer’s report on the stringent “conditions” the council had negotiated with the Developers.

REO could take down the chimneys but must replace within 7 years.

REO could remove the embarrassing sight of the wharf cranes they are letting rot and could “restore” them inside the hulk of the rotting power station.

REO could first develop a slither of land on the north west river front. Happily the piece of land with most instant resale value, being the furthest from the smelly and polluting waste transfer facility on the north east water edge of the site and the cluster of huge gas holders on the south west edge, deemed by the HSE to be enough of a potential danger to society they recommended the scheme was rejected. This danger of an inferno seemed not to trouble the committee who dismissed the HSE’s concerns. One councillor mocked it as health and safety gone mad as residents of the later phases of the development nearer the potential blast would have chosen to buy their luxury flats aware of the risk.

They also swallowed, uncritically, the completely spurious argument for knocking down the grade II listed Victorian pumping station on the grounds it was a “community benefit” in order to “save” the power station apparently achieved by destroying its architectural value by knocking windows all along its sides and turning it into a shopping mall with luxury flats.

All of the responsibilities and commitments of REO were locked into phases of the development projected way into the future. As REO have no real intention, or means, to “deliver” these planning pipe dreams they were in effect getting off Scot free. The only thing the planning committee’s decisions would guarantee were the demolitions.

The press has been full of the glossy artists impressions of this bright new future but actually it is a dark day for most Battersea residents as this scheme will deliver nothing but another decade of planning blight. A bleak future without two of the regions most precious and best loved buildings.

The optimists had to accept that even if the Power Station were to survive this scheme it could not actually be seen from anywhere in the borough once surrounded by the 15+ storey buildings REO planned.

Given the power station is Wandsworth Borough council’s logo it was indeed a turkey landslide vote for every day being christmas.

BabyLonDon’s Final Verdict: Funny but sad. Not an “An absolute triumph”

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Battersea Power Station demolition by stealth gets council go ahead

Tonight, with only one vote against, the London Borough of Wandsworth’s Planning Committee gave the green light for the demolition by stealth of Battersea Power Station by approving the chimneys are removed and (maybe?) replaced and the total destruction of the Victorian Pumping Station as predicted. Condemning north Battersea to another 15 years of urban blight.  But take heart there are still many rivers to cross (for the developers) and many opportunities along the way for us to propose more imaginative uses and to prove that urban planning by speculation is not viable or in the public interest.

For a full report read the review by Spectacle’s theatre critic BabyLonDon

“An absolute triumph”

Coming soon… details of our photographic competition: Soon to be Lost Views of Battersea Power Station

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Battersea Power Station chimney and Pump Station demolition meeting

Wandsworth Council’s Planning Applications Committee will (almost certainly) decide to give the go-ahead for the demolition of the chimneys at Battersea Power Station and the listed  grade II Victorian Water Pumping Station despite widespread and expert objection. The meeting is at the

Wandsworth Town Hall Thursday 11th November 7pm

(Please note the earlier than usual start time)

The Town Hall
Wandsworth High Street
London
SW18 2PU

Go to Details and reports for more info and to download the reports online the application number 1 is 2009/3575, No 4, 2009/3676 demolition of chimneys etc, no 3, 2009/3577, no 4, 2009/3578 Demolition of Water Pumping station.

Brian Barnes MBE, Chair of Battersea Power Station Community Group,  has issued a press release on behalf of the BPSCG:

If it were ever built, the Power station would be obscured by massive blocks of luxury flats and hotels. The Power Station will be altered with changes that will spoil the Grade 2* listed building with windows in the side walls, 1950s control room dismantled, new false ceilings in the main turbine hall, pods for penthouses covering the roofs and chimneys demolished and replaced by replicas (as if). Out of 3700 flats, only about 500 to be part buy/part let (so called “affordable”). The Grade 2 listed Battersea Water Pumping Station will be destroyed completely “in the public’s interest”. Any gain of public open space is unusable as it will be lakes and moats to reflect views of Power Station, as if there isn’t enough water with the Thames flowing past…

You can read the full press release here www.batterseapowerstation.org.uk

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See more of Spectacle’s Photos of Battersea Power Station

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Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society Pump House demolition objection letter

Profiting from demolishing our heritage

Malcolm Tucker of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society has written a letter objecting to the demolition of the grade II listed Victorian Pump House situated next to the Battersea Power Station.

The letter is both a detailed inventory of the archaeological and cultural value of the site that “developer” REO/Treasury Holdings want to raze to the ground in the name of making more money, and a demolition of the arguments for demolition in the recently circulated Planning Policy Statement 5 Assessment, prepared by Donald Insall Associates Ltd and dated September 2010.

Matthew Tucker observes that:

….their arguments for demolition of the building centre on PPS5 Policy HE9.2, and on the wording of listing description and the stated conclusion of the CgMs report that the building has ‘limited architectural, artistic or archaeological significance’. We believe that the building does have architectural and archaeological significance and that its demolition would deny future generations an appreciation of the transition of the Cornish engine from mine pump to waterworks engine. Further, we point out below that it should be possible to incorporate the conserved building within the scheme.

We may add that since CgMs prepared their Historic Building Record in 2005, the original drawings and other records of the building have been studied in detail by Colin Thom of English Heritage Survey of London, corroborating and expanding upon this society’s own researches.

The letter outlines 5 main points:

1) Function and fabric as contributors to the significance of the building.
2) Assessment of architectural significance
3) Significance of artefacts
4) Structural condition
5) Accommodating the building within the development

If you would like to read the  letter in full you can download it here:

If you would like to add your voice to the objections write to: Bob Leuty BLeuty@wandsworth.gov.uk

Please also send spectacle a copy info@spectacle.co.uk so we can be sure your objection is circulated.

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Battersea Power Station Company’s Objection to demolition of the Victorian Pumping Station

The Battersea Power Station Company, the charitable organisation seeking to protect the Battersea Power Station, have submitted their objection to Treasury Holding’s application to demolish the nearby Grade II listed Victorian Pumping Station. The pumping station is widely recognised as of historic and architectural interest by a wide range of authorities including: the Victorian Society; Save Britain’s Heritage; the Newcomen Society; the Council for British Archaeology;  the River Thames Society; the West London River Group; the Battersea Society; the Kew Bridge Engines Trust, and the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society.

The only justification offered by REO (Treasury Holdings) is a spurious notion of “public benefit” where the developer is attempting to wrap up their desire to build a few extra offices or flats on the site as a “public benefit”. The only other, even weaker, argument seems to be the idea that the pumping station must be sacrificed in order to save the Battersea Power Station.  As the letter below makes clear there is no real connection. The owner has a duty of care for both Grade II listed buildings. Besides many critics would claim their plans to “save” the power station by turning it into a Westfield style shopping centre and knocking windows all along both side exterior walls is actually a mindless act of vandalism that destroys the building’s architectural integrity. Put together with REO’s application to demolish the chimneys and replace with plastic ones this is “development” 1960’s style. Is it also “conservation” 2010 style? Is there any imagination out there??

If you would like to register your objection it is never too late!

Write to : planningapplications@wandsworth.gov.uk

10th September 2010

Borough Planner
Wandsworth Borough Council
Town Hall
London SW18 2PU

For the attention of Mr Tony McDonald

Dear Sirs,

BATTERSEA WATER PUMPING STATION (REF 2009/3578)

I am writing on behalf of the Directors to confirm our objection to this application to demolish the pumping station.

We wrote previously on 29th January 2010 to object, pointing out that one of our objectives as a company is the preservation of Battersea Water Pumping Station.

Many other organisations, with an interest in conservation, science and the river Thames have since written to you to object to this application.  The list is impressive:  including: the Victorian Society; Save Britain’s Heritage; the Newcomen Society; the Council for British Archaeology;  the River Thames Society; the West London River Group; the Battersea Society; the Kew Bridge Engines Trust, and the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society

Given the near unanimity of opposition to the proposed demolition and support for retention and alternative use, we wrote to Treasury Holdings on 8th June to offer to buy the pumping station for a sum of £1.  The offer took account of the parlous state into which Parkview International, and now Treasury Holdings, have allowed the listed building to decline.  You have a copy of that letter and we would ask that you make special reference to it in your report.

Treasury replied to us on 17th June to refuse our offer, taking refuge in clause HE 9.2 (i) of the new government guidance on the historic environment PPS 5 which talks about the need to demonstrate “substantial public benefits” that would outweigh the harm caused by the loss of the heritage asset, ie the demolition of the pumping station.

Treasury have since produced a revised assessment report of the pumping station (September 2009) taking account of the recently revised and updated PPS5.

This report is essentially a detailed architectural and archaeological description of the building.  This merely serves to emphasise its significance of the building and the importance of keeping it.

The report goes on to extol the “substantial public benefits” of their proposals.  These are listed as: the retention of Battersea Power Station (with the implication that in some way the pumping station should be sacrificed in order for the Power Station to be saved) ; a “contribution” to the proposed Northern Line extension; and other “substantial” – but unspecified – benefits arising from the regeneration of the site.

The report goes on to argue that the demolition of the pumping station is necessary in order to “deliver” the public benefits of the proposals listed above.

There are various flaws in Treasury’s justification for the demolition.

Firstly of course, the retention of the pumping station and opening it to visitors is a substantial public benefit in itself.   It is moreover a practical and achievable goal with a tangible outcome.

Secondly, Treasury does not make it clear why they can’t provide both the public benefit of keeping the listed building and other public benefits as well.   It is not credible that this small building cannot be retained in such a large scheme on a 38 acre site.  Indeed Treasury’s total scheme, for instance as shown on the model in their offices, makes proposals for additional sites beyond the Battersea Power Station site itself.

Thirdly, it is misleading to suggest that all the public benefits accruing from the redevelopment of a 38 acre site will be jeopardised by the retention of the pumping station.  A more realistic comparison would be the public benefits that could be had in place of the pumping station itself.  Given the small size of the building this might be no more than a small office or 8-10 flats  (The higher figures Treasury quotes for loss of residential units are dubious, related to a notional  “30m exclusion zone to create a suitable setting for the retained listed building”.)

A further point, which you will no doubt tell us is “not a planning matter” – is that Treasury does not have the ability to provide the “substantial public benefits” that they claim, given that they are £1billion in debt.

This application is without justification or merit and should be thrown out.

Please will you now take steps to compulsorily purchase the pumping station and have it transferred to us.  We are the rightful owner of this building if Treasury no longer requires it.

We would also reiterate our previous request that you use your legal powers to require Treasury to secure the building from further physical deterioration and other threats.

Yours faithfully,

Keith Garner   Director

cc    Mr Nick Collins  English Heritage
Ms Alex Baldwin   Victorian Society
Mr Marcus Binney Save Britain’s Heritage
Miss Juila Elton  Newcomen Society
Ms Vicki Fox  Council for British Archaeology
Mr Peter Finch  River Thames Society
Mr Peter Makower West London River Group
Ms Monica Tross  Battersea Society
Mr Oliver Pearcey Kew Bridge Engines Trust
Mr Tim R Smith  Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society
Mr Frank Daly  NAMA

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