Eco-Towns under scrutiny of the Urban Design Group

The Eco-Town concept, originally proposed by Gordon Brown in 2007, is yet to be carefully revised. This time the Bordon Eco-Town will serve as the case for the thorough examination of the Urban Design Group (UDG).

Jack Warshaw of Conservation Architecture & Planning will lead the debate with the Bordon community members on pros and cons of this controversial idea.The meeting, taking place on 21.09.2011 at 6.30pm in the Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ, will be video recorded by the Spectacle crew.

Although developing ‘carbon neutral’ Eco-Towns with over 5000 new homes and 15,000 new residents would presumably help to tackle climate change and housing shortage in the UK, some local communities have been strongly opposing this idea. Such issues as sustainability of the project, public engagement, and role of the local authorities are highly questionable.

Friends of the Earth said “…the Government is quietly removing the public’s right to have a meaningful say…”.

To counter the lack of discussion, Spectacle has started a project on Eco Town and Villages. To watch the interviews with Bordon Area Action Group committee members and local residents, visit Spectacle website for Eco Town and Villages.

Click Eco Towns and Villages for more blogs
See our Eco Towns and Villages project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Architect Fights Demolition of Battersea’s Little Pumping Station

Conservation architect Jack Warshaw is furious that Wandsworth council is proposing to give the go-ahead for vast amounts of development around Battersea Power Station – far more than would ever have been allowed, had permission ever been given for the site to be cleared. “On each occasion the excuse was that so much building was necessary to ‘save’ the Power Station – an enabling subsidy at no cost to the public purse,” he stresses.

The irony is that as each permission has been granted, the site has been sold on at a substantial profit from the added value it has acquired with the granting of these virtual developments. Its current owners Treasury Holdings may well do the same.

By contrast, the Station itself has been allowed to decay, which Warshaw feels may already well have gone beyond the point of economic repair. “And the Little Pumping Station, the one building that could be re-used at reasonable cost, is now the subject of a squalid application to demolish. Little by little, the heritage value of the site is being eroded. The permission already granted at the Power Station is a mockery of heritage conservation!” he exclaims.

As Wandsworth’s first Conservation Officer, he was proud of having built up its reputation as a leader in preserving London’s heritage. He was also the first to try, despite not succeeding, to bring about the rescue of Battersea Power Station.

So he feels strongly that the Little Pumping Station still stands apart “begging and able to be rescued. There is no credible case for demolition. Its loss, both of itself and as part of the ensemble, can only add a further insult, covering the Borough Council with still more ignominy.”

Warshaw is also a member of local activists Bordon Area Action Group (see www.baaga.co.uk) and is currently campaigning against another large and dense development in Whitehill Bordon, which will harm the local environment and character of this charming eco-town in east Hampshire.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
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Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Click Eco Towns and Villages for more blogs
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Bordon – The Next Tesco Town?


In a recent interview with Jack Warshaw, a local resident to the Bordon area and member of the Bordon Area Action Group (BAAG) committee, the suggestion that the Eco-Town development could lead to the decline of Bordon from a small and quaint town to becoming one of the many new emerging ‘Tesco Town‘ arose.

I hear you all now, what is a ‘Tesco Town’? We all, whether we like it or not have some association with this vast supermarket chain; whether it be the place you do your weekly food shop, your mobile phone provider or where you go for travel insurance – let’s face it, Tesco are taking over the world, well the UK at least.

But what does this mean for other businesses? It cannot have gone unnoticed that over the last few years, independent petrol stations have slowly been disintegrating and being replaced with Tesco, Sainsburys or Morrisons petrol stations, your good old corner shops which used to stock weird and wonderful products are now Tesco Express or Coop Local and fashion magazines are now filled with the latest bargains from George at Asda or Cherokee at Tesco.

This new supermarket craze is helping the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Tesco controls over 30% of the grocery market and certainly does not seem to be suffering the recession blues.

The problem. Towns and villages are losing their charm, for each new Tesco store that opens up, a small part of that town vanishes being replaced by a  superstore with no local history. The days when shoppers knew which family owned which business and each store had a purpose are slowly disappearing as everything you could possibly ever need can now be found under one roof or online.

Jack states, ‘Tesco would be delighted if there was an Eco Town here because they would instantly try to expand to be even bigger… once again you’re looking at a clone town, a Tesco town, an anywhere town, the type of place where all the potential for individual character is eroded and lost’

You don’t need to look far for examples of Tesco towns, towns where the high street is dominated by chain stores and pleasant pedestrianized streets have been turned into car parks – there is even an online society concerned with the power these supermarkets have over the consumer market. This is of course not just happening here, the US are dominated with the giant supermarket chain Walmart and that too, is slowly taking over.

One thing is for sure; there are plenty of people unhappy with this supermarket domination and Bordon residents are no exception. Eco town or no eco town, surely the voice of the locals should be considered before turning what was a small and delightful town into a large and generic housing area.

To see interviews with Bordon Councillors, residents and Bordon Area Action Group members see our Eco Towns and Villages project page or our read the latest blog here.

Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Chimney stacks of Money

Battersea Power Station owners Treasury Holdings/REO have been arguing the chimneys are unsafe and need to be demolished and rebuilt, dismissing an alternative report by a team of three companies of concrete experts brought together by the World Monuments Fund & Twentieth Century Society that revealed there is no sign of structural distress in the chimneys and that the chimneys can be repaired for half the cost of demolition and rebuilding.

Given the abysmal history of the Power Station’s owners’ reluctance to do anything but the absolute minimum of repairs critics are doubtful they would ever replace the chimneys once demolished- leaving a featureless pile of bricks and little to protect. No doubt, like with the roof, promises will be made to replace the chimneys, but various unavoidable economic or unforeseen technical problems will be cited as external reasons not to replace them. By getting planning permission from Wandsworth Borough Council to take down the chimneys Parkview, the previous owners, greatly added to the resale value of the site when they flipped it. It is a well known property developers’ trick when faced with a listed building to destroy or degrade the key feature that makes a building worth saving e.g. the facade of the beautiful Firestone Building was bulldozed leaving nothing worth protecting.

Bulldozers outpace the Heritage bureaucrats

IN MEMORIAM THE ELEPHANT AND CASTLE DESTROYED BY PEEL HOLDINGS PLC

The “unsafe” nature of the chimneys is also used as an excuse to not open up the river front land for public use.  During the rare times the Power Station is open to the public the whole site is a hard hat area and the roofless interior space between the chimneys completely out of bounds for safety reasons. Interestingly when cash is on the table this same space can accommodate a giant marquee for public events.

Stage design mock-up

Marquee in between "unsafe" chimneys.

Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings, expressed our concerns exactly when he told Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor for the Evening Standard  04.06.09
Unveiled: the ‘last chance’ for Battersea Power Station

[Tincknell].. hopes the chimneys, thought to have been beyond repair, may be saved. The previous plan saw them being replaced by replicas. He said: “If this scheme does not make it, there is no power station. If you look back in history there has been disaster after disaster, rubbish scheme after rubbish scheme. We have designed, consulted and are about to put in a planning application. The project is in the hands of developers who know what they are doing.”

That’s what we are worried about.

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Battersea Power Station = Regenicide

Relay sign still

Inside the BPS, 20 Oct 2009

A spiky piece sent to the Evening Standard by Conservation Architecture & Planning office Jack Warshaw caught our eye recently.  In the piece he denounces the redevelopment plans in Nine Elms and lambastes proposals for the new US Embassy.

“The projected new embassy’s security requirements…assume a “worst case” scenario of armed terrorist attack.  The resulting stockade mentality…  will contribute nothing towards making the area a more accessible, human-scaled place. Americans like me will be embarrassed by it.  Londoners will shake their fists at it.”

“The Power Station was doomed when Wandsworth Council failed to safeguard it from the collapse of John Broome’s scheme and English Heritage washed its hands of it… Regeneration? Don’t make me laugh… Just more examples of “regenicide”- killing off a place in the name of regenerating it.”

Visit Spectacle’s on-going Battersea Power Station Project

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