Cosa succede alla Battersea Power Station?

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Dopo la decisione di Apple di trasferire il suo quartier generale all’interno della Battersea Power Station, abbiamo assistito ad un picco di attenzione mediatica nei confronti dell’edificio art deco, gemma del patrimonio architettonico nazionale. Negli ultimi mesi, al contrario, le vicende che riguardano Battersea Power Station sembrano scomparse dai media mainstream. Ciò non significa che nulla sia successo e Spectacle ha continuato a monitorare le iniziative della Battersea Power Station Development Company – società che gestisce il progetto di rigenerazione – attorno alla monumentale centrale elettrica progettata da Giles Gilbert Scott e tanto amato da Londinesi e non. Sfortunatamente molte delle novità non sono confortanti.

Cattive notizie o buone notizie? Come sempre buono e cattivo sono mescolati nel linguaggio commerciale e ogni fatto è filtrato ad arte in base alle convenienze. Per esempio il grande pubblico certamente è stato messo al corrente del fatto che la più grande e ricca azienda al mondo, Apple, ha manifestato l’intenzione di trasferire i suoi uffici all’interno della centrale elettrica al termine dei lavori di ristrutturazione. Apple è stata salutata positivamente, come abbiamo segnalato, praticamente da tutti i mass media (tra gli altri segnaliamo BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard). Nel frattempo solamente il nostro blog ha dato notizia della demolizione totale dalla parete est della centrale, rimossa per far posto a finestre e dare così luce ai nuovi uffici della Apple.

Battersea Power Station - three of the four chimneys have been rebuilt

Battersea Power Station – tre delle quattro ciminiere sono state ricostruite (Spectacle, 10/03/17)

Questa triste perdita, andata sotto completo silenzio in tutti gli altri media, è in linea con la curiosa strategia conservativa ‘distruggi per preservare’ ripetutamente applicata a porzioni della Battersea Power Station. Nonostante le migliori pratiche conservative del patrimonio storico architettonico prevedano il mantenimento della maggior parte dei manufatti esistenti, nel caso di Battersea si è deciso di procedere alla demolizione delle ciminiere e alla ricostruzione di repliche. Secondo noi questo è uno degli esempi più evidenti delle storture prodotte dall’intervento di interessi finanziari nel campo della conservazione, come abbiamo cercato di mostrare nel nostro film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon

Le demolizioni (ciminiere e parete est) sono state approvate da tutte le agenzie di controllo (in primis Historic England e il Municipio di Wandsworth) e giustificate in nome del bene ultimo rappresentato dal riportare in vita la Battersea Power Station. Ma quale bene è stato prodotto finora dal megaprogetto di rigenerazione, valutato in 9 miliardi di sterline e tra i più grandi in Europa? I lavori per la ricostruzione delle ciminiere sono andati avanti e, al momento, tre ciminiere nuove di zecca spiccano sulle rovine della centrale elettrica. Se tutto va bene, presto i londinesi saranno di nuovo in grado di ammirare tutte e quattro le ciminiere nello skyline di Battersea. Peccato siano false. Meglio di niente? Forse…

Pubblico non Pubblico

La Battersea Power Station Development Company, attraverso il suo amministratore delegato Rob Tincknell, ha recentemente annunciato l’apertura di una passeggiata lungo il Tamigi: “Siamo lieti di poter aprire nuovi spazi pubblici per Londra e di poter condurre la Power Station e i suoi dintorni di nuovo al centro della vita londinese” (dall’Evening Standard). Nonostante l’entusiasmo dell’annuncio, lo ‘spazio pubblico’ cui si riferisce Rob Tincknell è nient’altro che una breve passaggio pedonale privato, schiacciato tra il fiume e la cosiddetta Fase 1 del progetto. La passeggiata sarà integrata al più ampio lungofiume che sarà aperto al pubblico di fronte alla Power Station. Come il resto dell’area, anche questo spazio è tecnicamente privato e solo aperto al pubblico, cosa ben diversa dall’essere uno ‘spazio pubblico’ tout court.

BPS_Collage_Riverside

Mentre eravamo intenti a fare delle riprese sulla nuova passeggiata, i membri della crew di Spectacle, ingenui, sono caduti nel tranello retorico dello ‘spazio pubblico’ pubblicizzato dai costruttori e si sono comportati come se davvero lo fosse. Sfortunatamente siamo stati ricondotti alla realtà da un membro del servizio di sicurezza venuto a ricordarci che il padrone di casa aveva deciso che non era permesso fumare in tutta l’area. Grazie al giudizioso gestore, la nostra salute è stata salvaguardata. Ci sembra però improbabile che uno spazio sottoposto a controllo privato possa garantire un libero godimento del lungofiume. Se i proprietari decidessero di bandire i picnic (magari per dare una mano i loro ristoratori) o manifestazioni di protesta, non ci sarebbe molto di cui lamentarsi: questo è ciò che accade quando si privatizzano spazi pubblici.

The Guardian in passato ha lanciato un allarme sugli effetti già prodotti dalla sovrapposizione di pubblico e privato lungo le sponde del Tamigi, diventato, secondo la loro indagine un “labirinto incomprensibilmente complesso di ostacoli privati e confusione tra municipi – nonché un campo di battaglia sui diritti di transito che potrebbe avere serie ripercussioni sull’accesso pubblico al fiume”. Non un grande preludio verso quella che i costruttori offrono come un’esperienza unica.

Planning non Planning

Le pretenziose 230 pagine del ‘manifesto’ su Place Making prodotte dalla Battersea Power Station Development Company riserva un ruolo fondamentale alla diversità di usi e di inquilini. Nonostante l’impegno a costruire case (alcune delle quali a prezzo calmierato) per la popolazione londinese, i proprietari hanno cambiato idea, passando da appartamenti di lusso a uffici.

THE_PLACEBOOK

La Battersea Power Station Development Company ha presentato istanza per un cambio d’uso della cosiddetta Fase 3 del progetto. I costruttori hanno intenzione di trasformare due edifici, progettati dalle star dell’architettura contemporanea Frank Gehry and Norman Foster – i cui appartamenti sono talaltro già in vendita – da uso residenziale a uffici. Il Financial Times nel darne notizia, presenta come causa di tale cambio il drastico crollo dei prezzi degli immobili di lusso, mentre la domanda di spazi per uffici si manterrebbe alta così come il loro valore. Rob Tincknell ha così giustificato la mossa al Financial Times: “L’aspetto positivo dei progetti a lungo termine è che possono adattarsi al mercato. Se non c’è mercato per immobili residenziali e un mercato molto florido per gli uffici, allora costruiamo uffici”.

Lo stesso Tincknell – che adesso esalta la flessibilità – in passato ha rilasciato un’intervista a Peter Watts, autore di ‘Up in Smoke’, testo sulla storia di Battersea Power Station, sottolineando come la propria azienda avesse prodotto una ricetta infallibile per rendere Battersea un luogo perfetto: “57% residenziale. Del restante 43%, che corrisponde a circa 315.000 mq, 110.000 mq in negozi e ristoranti, 158.000 mq in uffici e il resto con un buon bilanciamento di hotel, tempo libero e spazi per la comunità”. Ci domandiamo che cosa è successo a questo piano pseudoscientifico per mescolare usi e gente, secondo gli autori risultato di lunghe consultazioni con gli abitanti dell’area. Forse non era così importante dato che oggi Tincknel può riferire al Financial Times: “è facile immaginare di aggiungere 93.000 mq (di uffici)” e cancellare dal progetto un hotel e un bel po’ di appartamenti.

Il Battersea Power Station Community Group, praticamente l’ultima voce critica rimasta a mettere in discussione il progetto e le cui opinioni non sono mai state prese in considerazione dalla proprietà nel corso delle consultazioni, si sono scagliati contro la proposta: “Gli edifici di Gehry e Foster dovrebbero diventare case a uso sociale, con prezzi calmierati. Potrebbero esserci uffici ai piani bassi. Mentre assistiamo alla crisi abitativa più grave che sia mai stata vissuta a Londra, non si può dare via questi edifici nella loro interezza ad uso uffici”.

Continuate a seguirci per aggiornamenti e nuove contraddizioni generate dalla megarigenerazione di Battersea Power Station.

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Memories of Battersea: Jean

Spectacle has undergone a new project, exploring oral history in our beloved Battersea neighborhood, through short videos shot during our training courses.

In Memories of Battersea we start with Jean, a Wandsworth born survivor of the Second World War. Jean recounts for us what life was like living through the German bombardment of V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets, her evacuation spent in Oxfordshire as a child, what has become of her first home in Savona Street as well how she feels about new development in the Battersea area.

Jean grew up in Wandsworth Borough as a child during the Second World War. Losing family members and friends, Jean tells us about the bombardment on London by V-1 flying bombs. Although only a small child, such terrible times have remained with Jean for her entire life.

After life became too dangerous for people in Battersea as a result of the bombing, she was evacuated to the village Grendon Underwood in Oxfordshire. There she was cared for by a couple in a large rectory with many others from London. Jean’s safety was short-lived however when upon her return to Battersea, the German V-2 rockets began, knocking a Church down nearby.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 12.39.15

A still of Jean from her interview

Although Jean and her mother survived the war at home, the same could sadly not be said for her father whom was called up to fight. As many families celebrated in the streets of London, marking the end of WWII at by holding street parties called ‘Peace Teas’, Jean’s family alongside many others would never see their loved ones return from the field.

Now living in Carey Gardens near The Patmore Estate, Jean has witnessed a dramatic change in the area. No longer Savona Street, Jean’s old home has become part of what is now known as Savona Estate. More worrying for Jean however, there are now plans to build a large number of flats on the estate, a building much taller than those surrounding it including Carey Gardens.

Jean worries that these new flats may attract a different demographic of people, which wouldn’t suit the friendly nature of her beloved estate. This film was shot by participants on Spectacle’s 4 day training course.

Watch the full film here

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LGBT History on Film: Pride 1991

Twenty five years ago Despite TV filmed the documentary, ‘Out of Line’, on the subject of London Pride 1991. Having already taken an interest in documenting the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) political struggle as it was happening (Despite Clause 28 – 1988). This longer documentary film takes a celebratory approach to the community’s political and social wins.

The events of 1988 seem almost forgotten as 25,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered in London to take part in Pride 1991. The event, a march through the streets of central London ending with a party in Kennington park, had grown in popularity since 1988, thanks to activist groups such as LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Stonewall who worked hard to achieve greater acceptance, giving more people the courage to come out, even if just for one day.

Opening with footage of the celebrations on the streets of London, the film gradually takes on a more political tone, interviewing individuals about their experiences of homophobia and discrimination. The filmmakers talk to the Lewisham Lesbian Mothers group, who march in the parade with children and babies in tow. One woman is interviewed about her struggles conceiving and raising a child as a lesbian mother – a subject rarely discussed in the early 1990s.

The film also incorporates several interviews with BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) LGBT individuals and groups, who discuss the particular challenges they face living at the intersections of numerous forms of oppression – often facing homophobia in Black communities, and racism in LGBT communities.

As well as being an insight into London Pride from 25 years ago, the film succinctly summarises the struggles still faced by LGBT people in 1991, and the social and political strides they had made in changing a society which dismissed them.

The full film is available to rent or buy here.
A DVD of the film is also available here.

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LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 – 1988

LGBT History on Film: Despite Clause 28 (1988) from Spectacle’s Archive.

Despite Clause 28 (1988) Trailer from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

In the late 1980s and 90s, Despite TV, a collective of filmmakers founded by Mark Saunders (Spectacle Media) specialising in social and political issues, took an active interest in documenting and raising awareness of state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) persons in the UK.

In 1988 Despite TV produced a short campaign film, ‘Despite the Clause’, in response to the proposal of Section 28, a typically Thatcherite Local Government act proposed in 1986 and passed in 1988 which banned the “promotion of homosexuality”. The bill was proposed by the Conservative Party during the HIV/AIDS epidemic and purported to fear-mongering, homophobic tropes which portray LGBT people as deviant.

Section 28 was to have a damaging affect on LGBT individuals and, in particular, LGBT political and community groups, forcing them to limit their vital contributions to their communities, and in some cases shut down entirely for fear of legal backlash or censorship.

Despite the Clause features appearances from high profile activists including co-founder of Stonewall UK, Sir Ian Mckellen and Michael Cashman and M.P. Diane Abbott. In the film, Abbott, who was present at the proposal of the clause in the House of Commons, describes it as “A horrible, hysterical witch-hunting debate.” She also states that “The spirit behind Section 28 is a spirit of violence and intolerance to anybody that doesn’t conform, to anybody that’s different.”

Despite the best efforts of activists, Section 28 was ultimately passed and not repealed until 2003. Nonetheless, activists describe the resistance built against it as having a positive effect in establishing solidarity between LGBT people across the UK. Stonewall and other activists fought continuously for it’s repeal for over twenty five years. This campaign film subsequently remains a significant piece of LGBT history.

The full film is available for free here.

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Battersea Power Station: ghost flats worth £1.8bn!

Versione in Italiano

We learned from the pages of London Evening Standard that “More than £1.8 billion worth of homes have been sold at Battersea Power Station since they went on the market in January last year”. None on these flats have been built yet.

Apparently most of this £1.8 billion came from the fortunate global launch that Battersea Power Station Development Company organized last month.  As we already suspected, the search for overseas investors has not been affected by fear of the chinese property bubble bursting – the due date of which is still under discussion among financial analysts.  The threat of a Mansion Tax did not slow the rush of foreigners to use their deep pockets in order to get their piece of Battersea Power Station. Even if the London property market, as shown in Estate Agents Knight Frank’s report (see below), has appeared to slow down in the last few months, off-plan sales seem to work pretty well.Taking Battersea Power Station as reference for this trend, The Newstatesman  recently reported that:

“Off-plan profits hit the headlines last week with reports that a studio flat in Battersea power station, sold for close to £1m in the spring, is now due to go back on the market for up to £1.5m before it has even been built.”

Before anything has even been built, and while our concerns about the “Big Bang” business model of monstrous development projects are all to be proven erroneous, Battersea Power Station Development Company has actually done what all Battersea Power Station’s previous developers have already proven to be masters at: demolition!

Battersea Power Station: photograph taken by Spectacle on 08/12/2014

The first chimney of Battersea Power Station is gone. In the next weeks we will probably see it to come slowly back to a new life while the other three will start coming down all at once. We hope that the £1.8 billion will give Battersea Power Station Development Company enough energy to prove that, other than demolitions, they are good at building too.

 

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Battersea Power Station: appartamenti fantasma già venduti per £1.8 miliardi!

English version

Abbiamo appreso dalle pagine del London Evening Standard che “More than £1.8 billion worth of homes have been sold at Battersea Power Station since they went on the market in January last year”. Nessuno di questi appartamenti è stato ancora costruito.

A quanto pare la maggior parte di questi £1.8 miliardi proviene dalle vendite avvenute durante il fortunato lancio globale che la Battersea Power Station Development Company ha organizzato il mese scorso. Come sospettavamo, la ricerca di investitori stanieri non è stata resa difficoltosa dalle paure riguardanti l’esplosione della bolla immobiliare cinese – gli analisti finanziari stanno ancora discutendo su quando ciò avverrà. La minaccia di una Mansion Tax (tassa su immobili di lusso) non ha rallentato la corsa degli investitori stranieri per accaparrarsi il proprio costoso pezzo di Battersea Power Station. Nonostante il mercato immobiliare londinese, come mostrato dal report dell’agenzia immobiliare Knight Frank (vedi sotto), ha mostrato rallentamenti nel corso degli ultimi mesi, le vendite su progetto sembrano funzionare molto bene.Prendendo la Battersea Power Station come esempio di questa tendenza, recentemente The Newstatesman ha scritto:

“Off-plan profits hit the headlines last week with reports that a studio flat in Battersea power station, sold for close to £1m in the spring, is now due to go back on the market for up to £1.5m before it has even been built.”

Prima che sia stato costruito alcunché, e mentre le nostre preoccupazioni riguardanti il “Big Bang” dei modelli finanziari usati dai grandi progetti di sviluppo immobiliare aspettano di essere falsificate dai fatti,  Battersea Power Station Development Company ha già realizzato l’unica cosa che  tutti i precedenti costruttori impegnati nel progetto hanno mostrato di fare con maestria: demolire!

Battersea Power Station: fotografia scattata da  Spectacle il giorno 08/12/2014

Battersea Power Station: fotografia scattata da Spectacle il giorno 08/12/2014

La prima ciminiera della Battersea Power Station è andata. Nelle prossime settimane assisteremo con ogni probabilità al suo lento ritorno a nuova vita, mentre le altre tre ciminiere verranno smantellate contemporaneamente. Speriamo che i £1.8 miliardi daranno alla Battersea Power Station Development Company energia sufficiente per provare che, oltre a demolire, sono capaci anche a costruire.

 

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Cllr. Matthew Bennett’s Rectory Gardens slurs and errors

Cllr. Matthew Bennett, Labour Cabinet Member for Housing in Lambeth during an interview with Spectacle.

Cllr. Matthew Bennett, Labour Cabinet Member for Housing in Lambeth.

“We’d all like to live for free in million pound homes in Clapham”, Cllr. Matthew Bennett, Labour Cabinet Member for Housing in Lambeth, told Spectacle in a recent interview for our documentary about the eviction of residents from Rectory Gardens housing co-op. Yet, Spectacle’s film reveals that this statement, and numerous others Bennett made, is based on gross inaccuracies, calling into question the evidential basis for Lambeth’s decision to sell off the houses, a decision that Lambeth Labour MP Kate Hoey has told us “will go down in history as one of the worst the borough has made”.

Million pound homes?

In the mid-1970s, Lambeth Council Compulsory Purchase Ordered the L-shaped street of 28 Victorian terraced houses in the heart of Clapham Old Town for as little as £2000 – £4000 each under ‘slum clearance’. Along with numerous other ‘shortlife’ homes CPOd in the borough, the properties were effectively abandoned due to lack of funds to do them up. The only work ever to be carried out by the council since was to deliberately damage many of the interiors in order to prevent occupation. But a few years on, as was common at the time, squatters found a way to move into what had become derelict houses. Realising that this was a way to help them maintain the properties, the council then decided to welcome them as ‘short-life tenants’. Similar events took place across the city. “The Council were even handing out keys. They didn’t seem to care at all that we were there; in fact they seemed happy about it”, said one resident. Forty years later, and Lambeth are one of the last London boroughs to deal with their shortlife portfolio, having dithered about for decades, during which time a whole community and way of life has flourished. But in 2011, in the context an over-inflated London property market and government cuts, the Council decided to sell off what have become people’s long-standing homes at auction to raise cash. Evictions are currently in process.

Yet, if Lambeth are hoping to make one million pounds each on these houses, they must be dreaming. So far they have made £56 million on the sale of around 120 ‘shortlife’ houses. That’s around £466,000 for each one. There are now only around 50 shortlife properties remaining in the borough, and the Council aims to sell off the last remaining homes by the end of 2015. Rectory Gardens represents most of this tail-end stock. But rather than one million, the average sale price for a co-op property at auction is half that. Both houses already sold on Rectory Gardens went for under £500,000. It is unclear how much Lambeth anticipate making on the sale of the remaining houses; Spectacle have requested a figure.

How is this money to be spent? In our interview, Bennett said decisively that the money would be used to “build 1000 new council homes”, yet, a few moments later, he made more general statements about money going into a “pot” to pay for “road refurbishments, new primary school places” and seemingly other unspecified public services. His predecessor, Pete Robbins, said that the money raised from sales of co-op homes would plug a gap in the funding the council received for housing repairs. The money raised seems to be covering a lot of bases that it cannot possibly stretch to. Freedom of Information requests submitted by Lambeth United Housing Co-op (LUHC), (a campaigning group set up to protest similar borough-wide evictions), to find out exactly how the money will be spent have been unanswered. Spectacle has requested information regarding exactly where the new houses will be built, by when, and how much the total build is expected to cost.

Not only are these funds not being ring-fenced for housing, but the current £56 million windfall does not take into account the £1.8m spent so far on staffing and legal costs of eviction, nor the unknown additional sums spent on surveyors, auctioneers, vacant property managers, for which information Lambeth Council recently blocked another freedom of information request by LUHC. Neither does it factor in the added costs of re-housing people, which LUHC have estimated to be between £6 – £13m, nor the unknown long-term social welfare bill of caring for now isolated elderly and disabled residents, who had found support and care within the co-op community on the street, something the council seems keen to support in theory through its health and wellbeing policies and ‘Connected Communities’ project, but clearly not in practice when the community is already in situ.

Living for free?

Furthermore, the Council seems to refuse to acknowledge that it is thanks to the hard work, resources and energy of residents alone that houses that they once abandoned are now lucrative cash cows. Rather than living “for free”, in 1982, the majority of residents who came to settle in the houses formed a self-supporting co-op. Members paid into a pot, from which money was used to purchase materials or support substantial renovation works. These were carried out through a process of skill and labour sharing. Indeed, Labour Councillors Nigel Haselden, Christopher Wellbelove and Helen O’Malley in 2007 campaigning leaflets said: “Some of these homes would not be standing if it was not for the work of the people living in them.” Two of these Councillors, Wellbelove and Haselden, once elected did a complete U-turn on their promise to ‘fight for the rights of residents to stay in their homes’, now supporting the current eviction policy (O’Malley was deselected). Cllr. Bennett claimed no knowledge of this.

Correcting Bennett further on the matter of paying rent, he asked Spectacle to whom and how much were people paying. He then said “I heard it was no more than £1 a week. That’s almost nothing”, adding, as a different tack, “they’ve paid nothing to the Council”. First, the council never actually allowed any rent to be paid (more of which later), second, the actual membership fee was set at £5 a week (though rates varied across all co-ops), to reflect the low-income of those in the homes, all of whom were already on the council housing waiting list. This small fee was also designed to encourage residents to work on their own properties, which, contrary to Bennett’s claim that “people have not shown any willingness to spend the money necessary to bring [the houses] up to a decent condition”, they did, adding their own energy and labour. This included re-roofing, plastering, re-wiring, building new chimneys, installing windows and doors where there were none, putting new boilers into every house, building staircases, installing gas, and much more. Yet Bennett claims that “at least five properties are completely derelict” and that others have “fallen into disrepair” and “not been maintained”. He is clearly unaware, as he himself admitted during the interview, of the condition of the properties when they were initially purchased in the 1970s. Spectacle has sent him the below photographs to demonstrate the actual situation.

RGDNs

“Million pound” homes? The derelict condition of CPOd houses on Rectory Gardens in the 1970s before the co-op took over renovations.

In addition, Spectacle pointed out that since the residents have been paying council tax for years, according to the Valuation Office for England and Wales this legally qualifies them as ‘dwellings’ suitable for habitation, hence they could not possibly be “derelict”. A spate of recent articles concerning one property on the street said to have a tree growing through an illegal extension with dangerous electric wiring, rented out to sub-letters, is not a house that is part of the co-operative, yet it is being used to tarnish the community. Filming in a number of co-op homes, Spectacle found them to be comfortable, homely and safe. Having referred to a couple of other incidents with some houses in the street during his interview, Spectacle made the point to Bennett that crime is a social problem, not the fault of one set of people, neither should the actions of one mar the whole community, be that Rectory Gardens or ‘shortlife’ co-ops in Lambeth generally. He was unable to comment further.

Moreover, the idea that we should measure people’s contribution to society based on ‘how much they pay’ in monetary terms – (to the Council, in this case) – implied by Bennett’s statement, demonstrates an indefensible attitude of income-based prejudice. Looked at in entirely different way, the residents of Rectory Gardens have collectively done as much, if not more, to contribute to their community as many other rent-paying citizens do to theirs, and have a stable community that is not reflected by some of the highly transient ‘neighbourhoods’ that surround the street where occupants regularly move on and private rentals stay empty for long periods. The self-proclaimed ‘cooperative council’ should be falling over itself to recognise and reward those who voluntarily invest into making their ‘patch’ a positive place. Residents of Rectory Gardens have been behind numerous artistic and community-based initiatives in the area over the years, such as Cafe on the Common, the Tea Rooms, Studio Voltaire, and even the skate park on Clapham Common, activities which no doubt contributed hugely to making the area a now-desirable postcode, propping up the very market prices that Lambeth seek to capitalise on today.

There Is No Alternative?

Adding further insult to injury, despite the accusation of ‘living for free’, paying rent to the council was never given as an option. At no point since the establishment of the housing co-op have Lambeth Council sought any financial arrangements with residents. Bennett’s version of history is that “Other co-operatives took the opportunity to charge social rents and take a regularised position… Rectory Gardens did not go down the route [of] becoming a proper cooperative… We’ve spoken with the housing co-op on many, many occasions about ways in which they might want to finance taking their over as a co-op on their own, they haven’t been able to work with the money.” In fact, Rectory Gardens was not allowed to go down this route of ‘rationalisation’ and the council has never seemed to want to make them tenants – something that Tulse Hill Labour Councillor Mary Atkins said should have happened years ago. The Council has had opportunities of resolving the situation numerous times over the years, but has stopped deals going through, deciding not to come to a resolution and consistently using the threat of legal action as a first port of call. For example, the community embarked on years of without-prejudice negotiations with housing association Metropolitan Housing Trust and the Council, involving a lot of time, effort and money for the deal to evaporate because the council revalued the site.

On three occasions between 2012 and 2013, Lambeth United Housing Co-operative proposed to the council that residents begin to pay rent and become social housing tenants as a solution. They also came up with the idea of the ‘Super Co-op’, a proposal backed by housing experts that would see ex-council stock being recycled and refurbished by a borough-wide umbrella co-op while simultaneously skilling up local people. These solutions were rejected without being fully discussed. The Council even refused payment of their own legal charge, developed in-house; a so-called ‘use and occupation’ back fee seemingly designed to coerce people from the properties. A judge suggested a defendant pay in installments but Lambeth promptly declined this, presumably worrying that accepting payment could mean a case for tenancy rights in court.

As part of the eviction process, residents have been offered priority re-housing via the council’s Choice-Based Lettings system. Yet some of those that have accepted and found re-housing have reported damp, mould and asbestos, among other problems, not to mention the psychological difficulty of being forcibly displaced away from their community. Residents wish to remain in their homes, where they have raised families and built a robust community, and would be happy to pay council rents rather than needlessly displacing others on an already overburdened council housing waiting list. Yet Bennett argues that selling off this rare social housing stock will help the “21,000 people on our housing waiting list, the 1800 families in temporary accommodation and the 1300 living in severely overcrowded homes” because it is “not affordable” to spend money refurbishing them, money that could go towards new homes, or road refurbs, or primary school places… New council homes are of course welcomed, but should this be at the expense of existing council stock?

To top this off, at no point have residents asked the Council to spend money on the homes; rather they have proposed that they would take this on themselves via the Super Co-op. Bennett adds “It costs five times as much (£60 – £70,000) to refurbish a house on Rectory Gardens as it does to refurbish an existing council home.” Uncertain where these figures have come from, Spectacle have asked for the data used to make this claim. We have also written to Bennett to suggest that there are other options. The Super Co-op was one, but housing expert, and Director of Self-Help Housing, Jon Fitzmaurice has also told us he “continually comes up against large organisations who say it is uneconomic to do up houses but it is erroneous to take that view, as communities and small charities can make things happen for much less.” In Liverpool, a recent case he came across, saw a commercial builder estimate that a property would cost £30,000 to refurbish. It was finally done by a community group for £6,000, with the labour provided by co-op members and the only costs those of materials, a surveyor and building supervisor. Surely, as a ‘co-operative council’, Lambeth is aware that the co-operative way is often one of the most affordable and socially productive around. A bit more imagination, a bit less short-termism, might work wonders.

Pursuing the eviction policy, one of the worst outcomes would be, as housing expert Jon Fitzmaurice told us, that properties are ‘flipped’ and the council end up renting the properties back off a private landlord for social housing, which would be expensive, wasteful and self-destructive, as the eviction policy is already proving to be. Over in Southwark, campaigners have found that similar council promises to build ‘new’ ‘council’ homes, on closer inspection, have resulted in the selling off of public assets to purchase private land and build houses that are only partially available for social rents, the remainder being offered for private sale or shared ownership. Without a firm and open statement from the Council on exactly where the money is going, it is difficult to hold such promises to account.

Meanwhile, residents of Rectory Gardens are on the move, or in court, with some spending maybe one last Christmas in their self-created homes.

To read more of our blogs about Rectory Gardens, click here.

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World monuments fund watch day 2014: Nine Elms architectural walk.

Spectacle took part in the Nine Elms architectural walk – part of the World Monuments Fund Watch day 2014. Here is a short edit of the event.

The watch day was launched by World Monuments Fund in 2012 to provide an opportunity for people to engage with their local communities and deepen their knowledge of local historic sites. The walk itinerary included Vauxhall and Nine Elms areas looking at sites such as the listed Brunswick House, Convent Garden Flower Market, Tideway Village riverboat community, Battersea Power Station, Battersea Dogs Home, the gas holder site and Battersea Park railway station.   The walk was lead by Colin Thom of the Survey of London and had contributions from David Waterhouse (Tideway Village riverboat community), Stuart Tappin (Structural engineer), Brian Barnes (artist and founder member of Battersea Power Station Community group)  and Keith Garner (architect).

Group photo in front of the Battersea Power Station during the World Monuments Fund Watch Day 2014

Group photo in front of the Battersea Power Station during the World Monuments Fund Watch Day 2014

 

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See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Selling Battersea Power Station over stormy seas

Versione in Italiano

 

Why has the demolition of the south west chimney at Battersea Power Station apparently come to a stop?

The chimneys as they appeared on September 27th

The chimneys as they appeared on September 27th

Chimneys on October 21th

Chimneys on October 21st

Maybe the project has hit a technical snag- the chimneys are far more robust than the Battersea Power Station Development Company have wanted to admit – but it could also be that it is a barometer of the global economy and an indication of how vulnerable their business model really is. The business model of the current owners, like the previous ones, is a precarious one based on an ever increasing UK property market.

However the current economic climate is not looking good. The property market, according to most informed opinion, has plateaued and, in London, is in danger of going down.

Simon Rubinsohn, Chief Economist at Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, in an article about the UK’s Property Market says:

“As a result of the rebalancing in demand and supply, house price growth across the UK appears to be moderating […] prices are still projected to rise nationally over the next year and expected to increase by 2.6% on a 12 month view (compared with around 4% at the start of the year)”
The pound is getting stronger against currencies like the Euro (Milan and Paris are targeted cities for the Battersea Power Station Development Company), making London a less attractive investment and interest rates are going up.

(www.xe.com)

(www.xe.com)

The Labour Party, if they win the election in May 2015, which if due only to the metronomic pendulum swing of UK politics between the two major parties, is a distinct possibility, are promising a “Mansion tax” on all properties worth more than £2m (here is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ opinion about the Mansion Tax).

Then there is the UK housing crisis, caused in large part by the selling of London property to foreign investors who have no intention of living in the properties they buy. Whoever wins the next election they need to address this and no solution will leave the property market untouched.

The Financial Times seems to support our worries in a recent article:

“Uncertainty around new property taxes, the strength of the pound on global currency markets and the introduction last year of a tax on homes held through companies have all contributed to the slowdown, according to those involved in trading properties.”

The same article gives us a quite impressive picture of the property market situation.

Some data about English Property Market, as published by Financial Times on

Some data about English Property Market, as published by the Financial Times.

Perhaps the emphasis on selling off-plan to overseas investors is because while there are plenty of rich in the UK  they might be a harder sell being better informed. Overseas investors, basing their judgement on futuristic artists impressions are unlikely to be aware of the smelly and disruptive waste processing plant with its hundreds of daily truck deliveries of reeking rubbish.

Our two faced Mayor of London Boris Johnson, ever the populist, plays it both ways, touring China promoting the London property market as an investment and for a local audience blaming that very market on the chronic housing shortage.

Boris Johnson at the launch of London City Island in Ballymore group sales event in Hong Kong, 18/10/2013) (from http://www.ballymoregroup.com/en-GB/news/41)

Boris Johnson at the launch of London City Island in Ballymore group sales event in Hong Kong, 18/10/2013) (from www.ballymoregroup.com)

It might be coincidence but in the week the Chimney demolition halted it was reported that the Chinese property bubble would burst soon, probably 2015, with catastrophic ripple effect on the global economy and international banking- possibly triggering a global crash.

As Bloomberg reported recently:

“The Chinese crash might make 2008 look like a garden party. As the risks of one increase, it’s worth exploring how it might look. After all, China is now the world’s biggest trading nation, the second-biggest economy and holder of some $4 trillion of foreign-currency reserves. If China does experience a true credit crisis, it would be felt around the world.
[…]
The potential for things careening out of control in China are real. What worries bears such as Patrick Chovanec of Silvercrest Asset Management in New York, is China’s unaltered obsession with building the equivalent of new “Manhattans” almost overnight even as the nation’s financial system shows signs of buckling. As policy makers in Beijing generate even more credit to keep bubbles from bursting, the shadow banking system continues to grow.”

This week the Battersea Power Station Development Company launched their overseas selling campaign of luxury apartments. Three of the cities targeted are Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong- all especially vulnerable to the vagaries of the Chinese economy.

The new owners are no different to all the previous owners – they are just better at PR and have better access to overseas markets. As before, despite the excellent PR hype suggesting that “at last work has started”, bolstered shamelessly by a “purse whipped” English Heritage, the only thing the current owners have actually done is demolish – they are taking down the chimneys, demolishing the precious, Grade II listed Victorian pumping station and removing the iconic listed cranes.

In other words the new owners are just flipping the Battersea Power Station. Selling today artists impressions of what MIGHT be built in the future.

We wonder what guarantees prospective buyers have that the off-plan flats they are buying will actually materialise. But then, having more money than sense, they probably do not care.

 

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See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Battersea Power Station in vendita per mari perigliosi

English Version

 

Come mai i lavori di demolizione della ciminiera sudovest di Battersea Power Station sembrano essersi fermati?

The chimneys as they appeared on September 27th

Come apparivano le ciminiere di Battersea Power Station il 27 settembre scorso

Chimneys on October 21th

Le ciminiere di Battersea Power Station il 21 ottobre

Il progetto si è forse incagliato su qualche scoglio tecnico – le ciminiere sono molto più resistenti di quanto la Battersea Power Station Development Company sia disposta ad ammettere – o dipende dall’andamento dell’economia globale e si tratta, quindi, di un indicatore sulla vulnerabilità del piano finanziario del progetto? Il modello economico seguito dagli attuali proprietari, così come dai precedenti, è alquanto precario basandosi in gran parte sull’idea di un mercato immobiliare britannico in continua crescita.

Guarda caso le previsioni economiche attuali non guardano al bello. Il mercato immobiliare, secondo le opinioni degli esperti, è in stagnazione e, a Londra, corre il rischio di deflazione.

Simon Rubinsohn, Chief Economist del Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, in un articolo mercato immobiliare nel Regno Unito afferma:

“As a result of the rebalancing in demand and supply, house price growth across the UK appears to be moderating […] prices are still projected to rise nationally over the next year and expected to increase by 2.6% on a 12 month view (compared with around 4% at the start of the year)”

La sterlina sta diventando sempre più forte nei confronti dell’Euro (Milano e Parigi sono obbiettivi per il mercato della Battersea Power Station Development Company), rendendo Londra una città meno attrente in cui investire, con tassi di interesse in crescita.

(www.xe.com)

(www.xe.com)

Il partito laburista, in caso di successo alle elezioni generali di Maggio 2015 – possibilità dovuta al fatto che l’alternaza tra i due maggiori partiti della politica britannica è inevitabile come il movimento di un metronomo – ha promesso la cosiddetta “Mansion Tax”, una tassazione aggiuntiva su tutti gli immobili di valore superiore a 2 milioni di sterline (qui è possibile leggere l’opinione del Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors sulla Mansion Tax).

Poi c’è la crisi abitativa, causata in gran parte dalla vendita di immobili londinesi a investitori stranieri, i quali non hanno nessuna intenzione di vivere nelle case che comprano. Chiunque vinca le prossime elezioni dovrà mettere mano a questo problema, e qualuque possibile soluzione avrà inevitabili ricadute sul mercato immobiliare.

The Financial Times, in un recente articolo, sembra supportare le nostre preoccupazioni:

“Uncertainty around new property taxes, the strength of the pound on global currency markets and the introduction last year of a tax on homes held through companies have all contributed to the slowdown, according to those involved in trading properties.”

Lo stesso articolo è corredato da una fotografia impressionante della situazione che sta attraversando il mercato immobiliare.

Some data about English Property Market, as published by Financial Times on

Dati riguardanti il mercato immobiliare britannico, pubblicati su The Financial Times.

Può darsi che l’enfasi riposta sui piani di vendita a investitori stranieri, quando c’è abbondanza di ricchi anche nel Regno Unito, sia dovuta al fatto che gli investitori locali siano più difficili da convincere visto che sono meglio informati. Gli investitori stranieri, che fondano i loro giudizi su impressioni artistiche e futuristiche, sono probabilmente inconsapevoli dell’olezzo disgustoso proveniente dall’impianto di smaltimento dei rifiuti presente nell’area, con le centinaia di camion che quotidianamente vi riversano fatiscenti carichi d’immondizia.

L’eclettico Sindaco di Londra Boris Johnson, anche nella sua versione più populista, fa il doppio gioco: va in tour in Cina per promuovere investimenti nel mercato immobiliare londinese, mentre al pubblico londinese indica proprio questo modello di mercato come causa della cronica mancanza di abitazioni.

Boris Johnson at the launch of London City Island in Ballymore group sales event in Hong Kong, 18/10/2013) (from http://www.ballymoregroup.com/en-GB/news/41)

Boris Johnson interviene al lancio delle vendite del London City Island, in un evento organizzato dall’impresa Ballymore il 18 ottobre ad Hong Kong. (Fonte: www.ballymoregroup.com)

Può darsi che si tratti di una coincidenza, ma nella stessa settimana in cui la demolizione della ciminiera si è fermata sono stati pubblicati resoconti che indicano come la bolla immobiliare cinese stia per esplodere presto, forse già nel 2015, con catastrofiche ricadute sull’economia globale e sulla finanza internazionale – con la possibilità di innescare una crisi globale.

Come riportato recentemente da Bloomberg:

“The Chinese crash might make 2008 look like a garden party. As the risks of one increase, it’s worth exploring how it might look. After all, China is now the world’s biggest trading nation, the second-biggest economy and holder of some $4 trillion of foreign-currency reserves. If China does experience a true credit crisis, it would be felt around the world.
[…]
The potential for things careening out of control in China are real. What worries bears such as Patrick Chovanec of Silvercrest Asset Management in New York, is China’s unaltered obsession with building the equivalent of new “Manhattans” almost overnight even as the nation’s financial system shows signs of buckling. As policy makers in Beijing generate even more credit to keep bubbles from bursting, the shadow banking system continues to grow.”

Questa settimana la Battersea Power Station Development Company ha portato i suoi appartamenti di lusso in una campagna di vendite in giro per il mondo. Tre città raggiunte dalla campagna sono Pechino, Shangai e Hong Kong, tutte particolarmente esposte agli alti e bassi dell’economia cinese.

I nuovi proprietari non sono molto diversi da quelli precedentivi – sono solo più bravi in PR e hanno un migliore accesso ai mercati internazionali. Come in passato, nonostante gli eccellente battage pubblicitario sostenga che “finalmente i lavori sono iniziati”, sotenuto senza pudore dall’English Heritage, l’unica cosa che i nuovi proprietari hanno fatto in realtà è stato demolire – stanno abbattendo le ciminiere, demolendo la deliziosa e protetta Victorian pumping station e rimuovendo le iconiche (e protette) gru.

In altre parole i nuovi proprietari stanno facendo il loro gioco con la Battersea Power Station. Vendono oggi immagini fantastiche di ciò che POTREBBE essere costruito in futuro.

Ci chiediamo che tipo di garanzie vengano fornite agli eventuali acquirenti stranieri circa il fatto che gli apparatamenti che stanno comprando sulla carta vengano effettivamente realizzati. Alla fine, avendo costoro più soldi che giudizio, forse gli non importa più di tanto.

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

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