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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Letter to Architects Journal on Battersea Power Station phase 3

Keith Garner‘s ( architect and member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group) non-edited letter to the Architects’ Journal.  A critical look at Foster and Gehry, the chosen designers for phase 3 of the Battersea Power Station:

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”Your report about the appointment of Foster and Gehry to the Battersea Power Station project hits the nail on the head.  (AJ web site 23rd October.)   New buildings on the Battersea Power Station site would certainly be highly visible “… from passing commuter trains”.  The one thing you won’t see of course will be Battersea Power Station itself,  which would be  obscured by thousands of new flats in blocks up to 18 storeys high, to be built as part of the Viñoly master plan.

This would be a very great shame given the evident pleasure that commuters and visitors to London derive from  seeing  Battersea Power Station from the train:  certainly  to judge by the number of people who take photographs as they go by and then post them on  Twitter and Instagram.

The truth is that the Viñoly master plan is fatally flawed.  This is because the quantum of development it foresees will destroy Battersea Power Station’s significance as an urban landmark.   It really doesn’t matter how distinguished the architects are who design individual buildings. No good will happen at Battersea until the master plan itself is ditched.

Indeed, rather than allowing new commercial buildings to proceed before Battersea Power Station  is repaired,  nothing should happen on the site until the future of the Grade II* listed building is itself secured.  In that regard, Foster & Gehry would be better employed working alongside Wilkinson Eyre on Battersea Power Station itself, rather than in designing new buildings adjacent.

Part of the reason why the current scheme for Battersea Power Station is so wildly off beam is that its underlying premise is to fund the repairs to the listed building from the proceeds of surrounding commercial development.  But if the resulting over-scaled buildings destroy the significance of Battersea Power Station as a urban landmark – as they surely will – then what’s the point?

It would be far better to transfer ownership of Battersea Power Station to a public interest trust and to repair the building with funds from the Lottery.   Rob Tincknell should agree to this: it relieves the consortium of the responsibility of looking after the listed building – something they are plainly not interested in – and lets them get on with the job of making a return for their investors.

The consortium would develop the surrounding site (in a manner that respects the monumentality of the listed building and preserves key views e.g. from the railway viaduct) and would have a lease from the trust for use of the unlisted parts of Battersea Power Station itself, i.e. most of it.   As a quid pro quo for the use of Lottery money, the public would have free access to the listed interiors which could be used for any number of educationally or culturally uplifting pursuits.

This seems like the basis of an equitable settlement to me. What is needed is an organisation to take it forward.  For too long, English Heritage has stood on the sidelines whilst the situation at Battersea Power Station has descended in to black farce.   As the government’s advisor on the historic environment, it should be their responsibility to rescue the building from the fate that currently awaits it and to pursue a civilised alternative based on trust ownership.

Incidentally, the AJ hasn’t – as far as I am aware – reported the news that the World Monuments Fund had just added Battersea Power Station to its list of world heritage in danger for 2014.  This is the second time Battersea Power Station has been added to the list – the first was in 2004 – and reflects the World Monuments Fund’s ongoing concerns about the situation at Battersea and the motivations of the current owners.”

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See Merlin Fulcher’s original article that provoked Keith’s comments.

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The loss of a British Institution looms

An important symbol of South London and a key feature of the city’s skyline, the Battersea Power Station, has been left to decay for more than twenty years. Created by Gilbert Scott in 1935, the building has slowly rotted away after both station’s A and B were  decommissioned in 1975 and 1983 respectively. The much-loved monument is listed on the English Heritage’s “Buildings at Risk” register.

For full article please click here.

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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 Original Plans

Courtesy of Brian Barnes of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, what we have beneath are some of the original plans for the station, fuelling the debate on what the site should now be used for.

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Visit Spectacle’s on-going Battersea Power Station Project

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Battersea Power Station on English Heritage ‘At risk’ list.

Battersea Power Station is rated as in “very bad” condition on English Heritage’s just published ‘Heritage at Risk’ list.

Battersea Power Station
The landmark building was upgraded to grade II* in October 2007 but is given only D priority.

Read more about our Battersea Power Station project.

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