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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Power Station owners REO stops paying interest due to creditors

The poor house

REO stops paying interest due to creditors

TREASURY Holdings-backed property group Real Estate Opportunities (REO) owners of Battersea Power Station did not pay interest due to a group of its creditors at the end of the August.

REO is apparently in “ongoing restructuring negotiations” with the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), Lloyds Bank and others about its loans. The company announced yesterday: “taking into account the status of the negotiations, the company has determined that the interest payment due … will not be made”, a statement that seems to imply that REO could pay the interest if it wanted to.

It owes its banks around €2 billion and in June said it would not be in a position to repay a €450 million debt due in May 2011. It hired advisers to help it tackle this issue.

Perhaps they could cut back on luxuries and use their tea bags twice.

The future of one of UKs best loved buildings is in the hands of mega debtors who claim they will use “their own money” to build the “essential” Battersea tube extension.

Read more in the Irish Times and Property Week.

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Bulldozing Battersea Water Pumping station for profit

Listed but not protected

Battersea Water Pumping Station is Grade II listed but not protected.

The usual safeguards against demolition of a heritage building are under scrutiny as REO, “developers” of Battersea Power Station, seek to bypass the criteria for demolishing a listed building and bulldoze the Victorian Battersea Water Pumping Station. Under new policy guidelines, REO will no longer need to administer the test criteria before destruction of a heritage site. REO state they “are not seeking to justify demolition on the basis of Policy HE9.2(ii)” Conveniently, REO is not in violation of policy and in effect giving them the right to proceed without obstacle.

A summary of the criteria for demolition under Policy HE9.2(ii) of PPS5 are to prove they are unable to:

  1. find a “new use” for the building
  2. maintain existing building  use
  3. find a charity group interested in the building
  4. get a local group willing to take on the building
  5. market the building – someone could use it for alternative means

The community group Battersea Power Station Company has in fact offered to purchase the building for a nominal sum for a community centre, the building is described as “fairly robust and would be restorable if somebody wanted to.” However, under Policy HE9.2(i), REO claim they will not need to go through the test criteria listed. REO claim they can reject applications for the building arguing “the requirement to market the property is not engaged, since that only relates to Policy HE9.2(ii) and not to Policy HE9.2(i).”

Furthermore, under the new policy, REO “justifies the demolition of the water pumping station by reference to Policy HE9.2(i) of PPS5. Our position is that the demolition of the pumping station is justified by the delivery of the substantial public benefits inherent to the regeneration scheme [REO] are promoting, that outweigh the building’s loss, and that retention of the building would compromise the delivery of the comprehensive scheme.”

REO’s superfluous argument that the water pump station must be demolish or it will jeopardize the entire regeneration project for this area remains unfounded.

In fact, there are approximately 20 hectares of land for redevelopment.  It is perplexing that the developers are not willing to revise their plans for redevelopment to include the heritage site. Alex Baldwin of the Victorian society confirms that the demolition of the site would be a “considerable loss and unnecessary waste of a valuable historic building.” She goes on to say that the Battersea Water Pumping station is “integral to the redevelopment and regeneration of the area.  Demolition would degrade the area of the site and call into question the listing process as a whole.  The developers have not fulfilled the testing criteria for demolition, nor have they gone through re-qualifying their scheme for regeneration.”

Examples of successful redevelopment of historical sites can be found in Nottingham, Crossness in East London, Abbey Mills, and Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. The rejuvenated historical sites have revitalized the community and the same could be done for Battersea. Governments should include historic sites in the redevelopment schemes and not deem them mutually exclusive to the social and economical regeneration linked to a community.

By proceeding with the redevelopment proposed by REO, a precedent is set forth in how to undergo regeneration schemes in London. It is not good practice to use this as a blank slate for developers to demolish historical sites for the profit of a selected few. It is imperative to uphold government policy regarding the demolition of these irreplaceable iconic symbols. Once they are gone, we will never be able to get them back.

Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet – Bill Hicks

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
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