Battersea Power Station under investigation for “dubious” investments

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak (pictured below sharing a joke with David Cameron and Boris Johnson)  has been charged with corruption over a ‘£3.4bn fraud.’

Caption Competition: Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak, Boris Johnson and David Cameron

The purchase of Battersea Power Station, the biggest property deal in the UK, is under threat after Anwar Ibrahim, the new leader of Malaysia’s governing coalition said it would be investigated as part of “dubious” investments made by the previous administration.

The Guardian reported:

“Anwar Ibrahim’s comments will raise questions about the British government’s commitment to fighting corruption. He said the money trail of the 1MDB fraud ran through London, with $1.83bn of Malaysia’s cash funnelled into a Saudi-British company.

“There was no attempt by British authorities to investigate. But this was a crime using sovereign wealth funds for reckless spending sprees.” he said.

“I say to Britain: you talk about transparency and anti-corruption drives, now is the time for action. I am saying now allow the institutions to conduct investigations fairly and give the necessary cooperation.”

Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader spent nine years in prison on charges which have been confirmed as trumped up and politically driven.

We ask how does this impact on the future of the building? The signs are not good. Despite being festooned with cranes there does not seem to be much going on at the site, just the continuation of the demolition by stealth. The east and west walls of iconic art deco brick work have gone. The London luxury property market has effectively collapsed. Many key individuals, including long time CEO Robert Tincknell, have left the Battersea Power Station Development Company (did they jump or were they pushed?).

Are we going to be left, as predicted, with a useless and worthless ruin surrounded by hideous and empty flats that no one wants to buy? Will the poor workers of Malaysia ever see their money back?

You can read more about Battersea Power Station on our blog and watch our film Selling an Icon here:

 

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

‘Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon’ tells the story of Battersea Power Station from its prominence as a site of industrial power through the years of dereliction, speculation and planning blight to the replacement of the chimneys under the current scheme – a key example of developer-led preservation. In an age of aggressive ‘big business’ redevelopment, the film gives voice to the local communities who are rarely consulted and often overlooked.

Filmed over 15 years, Spectacle’s new documentary follows the grassroots campaigns of Battersea Power Station Community Group to preserve the building for the public good. It takes us straight to the heart of the current conservation debate about whether – and how – historic buildings should be preserved, governed, modified or replaced, and ‘who’ they belong to.

Also available to purchase on DVD. For institutional buyers and public screenings, please contact us at distribution@spectacle.co.uk.

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Will the chimneys be demolished all at once?

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There is a growing worry about the survival of the chimneys on Battersea Power Station. While expert opinion says they could be repaired the developers insist they have to be demolished and replaced with replicas. To avoid a repeat of the roof situation – ( see Demolition by Stealth)  where Bloom, a previous owner, took the roof off and then claimed he could not afford to replace it- planning permission was only given to demolish and rebuild the chimneys one by one, but now it seems like it is going to be a different story.

South London Press wrote an article in their newspaper this week about the fact that Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) are pushing towards knocking all the chimneys down at once. This action is something that English Heritage has warned about, since it might result in the chimneys never being rebuilt. Now on the other hand are Battersea Power Station Development Company, English Heritage and Wandsworth council in discussion about removing the clause in the building contract that requires the chimneys being removed and rebuilt one by one. English Heritage have not been able to reassure Battersea Power Station Community Group that they are not willing to change their view on the demolition of the chimneys.

Battersea Power Station Development Company was claiming in an exhibition last week that replacing the chimneys one by one would be too time consuming and would delay the rebuilding and restoration of the power station.

Wandsworth council claims that Battersea Power Station Development Company are examining different ways to rebuild the chimneys, but if there would be a change in the rebuilding strategy, it would have to be approved from the council in consultation with English Heritage.

Is there still not a risk that the chimneys will not be rebuilt if they are taken down all at once? Since it is cheaper, and possible, to repair them rather then to replace them, why would a company who are driven by profit decide to do something that is more expensive? Is it not proof enough to suspect that if the chimneys are gone all at once, there will be a great risk that they are never rebuilt, and rendered historically worthless the power station will be demolished as well.

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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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The new development in Battersea “is not” only for the rich

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The redevelopment of Battersea Power station has started and as we have written many times before, we are very concerned what the impact of the new neighborhood might have on the existing community.

30-40 percent of the flats have been sold to foreign investors, said the CEO of the new Battersea Power Station Development Company, Robert Tincknell to the Evening Standard last week. He did also mentioned that even if they were bought up by foreign investors, most of the investors will probably rent the flats to londoners. Something that would contribute to the vibrant community they hope to build. He also believes that the new development will be good for local business and that they are trying to be a part of the existing community.

The question still remains, would not a new development with expensive flats make the rent for existing houses higher? Tincknell says that he does not want Battersea Power Station to only be a place for the rich, but with the building plans they got, does it really sound like a place that is not only for the rich?

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The effects of palm oil-plantations has on Orangutans

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As we have written before, one of the new owners of Battersea Power Station, Sime Darby, is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil and has been accused of illegal logging in the rain forest of Borneo and Sumatra as well as destroying the habitat of the endangered Orangutan.

The UK government has voted to offer subsides to power stations for the burning of large portions of palm oil and other biofuels. An increased demand for palm oil poses a big threat to rain forest and the Orangutans habitat.

Famous British author of fantasy novels, Terry Pratchett, visited Borneo in 1994 and fell in love with the Orangutans. Recently he returned for a BBC-documentary, Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction, to see how the orangutans turned out.

To see what effects palm oil-plantations have on these endangered animals, please watch Terry Pratchett: Facing Extinction.

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Is the new Power Station scheme to change people’s quality of life?

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Rob Tincknell was interviewed in The Standard, Hong Kong’s biggest circulation English daily, about the plans for Battersea Power Station earlier this month. The power station was bought by three Malaysian companies, SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employee’s Provident Fund, in June last year. Tincknell said that the Malaysian’s vision for the site is better and different from the previous schemes, since this one is bigger and it is going to influence people’s quality of life.

Tincknell failed to mention that people’s quality of life is not only going to change for the better. Like we have mentioned before, many in the nearby communities are people on low incomes, and with a luxury estate just across the road from their homes the rents will rise and their quality of life will get worse.

Developers who want to attract really wealthy buyers have to build super-size apartment buildings with flats bigger then 6,000 square feet. The new penthouses in Battersea are planned to be 8,000 square feet, a size aimed to appeal more to the rich rather then the members of the Battersea community.

Tincknell also mentioned that no other plans have had a good solution to the public transport, but this scheme is planning to extend the Northern Line with public money, a 1 billion loan from UK government to Transport for London.

Two things are interesting with this statement. First of all, the previous owners of Battersea Power Station, who Tincknell also worked for, were the one’s who planned the extension of the Northern Line. Second, the owners were also suppose to pay for the extension as a contribution towards section 106- planning gain. Somewhere down the line the private-funding of the underground extension has turned in to a public-funding.

In the end Tincknell said that tourists want to come and see things that are authentic, and he means that the Power Station surrounded by ugly new buildings will give “authenticity” to the place. The only question is, will Battersea Power Station survive after its chimneys have been taken down to be rebuild, and how much of its authenticity will it be able to keep?

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“New” idea to turn Battersea Power Station in to a rollercoaster


The “new” idea of a roller coaster wrapped around the power station.


A similar idea but from 1988

Wired Magazine wrote earlier this week about who the Architecture firm Atelier Zündel Cristea (AZC) had won a competition hosted by ArchTriumph. The competition was to use the Power Station as inspiration to imagine a new Museum of Architecture.

AZC idea was to build a roller coaster around the Power station, add some new floors, have galleries inside and use the roof for exhibitions on architecture.

The idea of turning the Power Station into a roller coaster is not new. It is an old idea from Margaret Thatcher’s eighties that thankfully never happened.

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Palm oil biofuel is endangering the homes of Orangutans

The UK Government are proposing to support the burning of 500,000 tonnes of bio liquid per year in power stations. The largest part of this fuel will be palm oil, since it is the cheapest vegetable oil. One such Combined Heat and Power Station is planned for the Battersea Power Station site.

Even though some bio liquids can be good and environmentally friendly, the use of palm oil ruins the rainforest and the home of orangutan, an animal that today is nearly extinct.

We have written before how Sime Darby, new owners of Battersea Power Station, have carried out illegal logging in rain forests and endangered the homes of orangutans. So Sime Darby, with their production of palm oil,  is not only a threat for Battersea Power Station, but also for orangutans, the rainforest and in the end our environment.

 

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Should We Trust Sime Darby with Battersea Power Station?

The Malasian company Sime Darby is one of the worlds largest producers of Palm Oil. They also make up 40% of the comglomerate which now owns and is redeveloping the Batersea Power station and surounding area.

The company has been surrounded by controversy over its ethical practices. According to a recent Friends of the Earth report Sime Darby has carried out illegal logging in the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra, home to endangerd speicies such as the Orangutan, to make way for palm oil plantations.
Sime Darbys Palm Oil opperations in Liberia are equally dubious with the company accused of swallowing up farmlands and forests used by local communities to sustain their livelihoods.
The company has been exposed for running an aggressive Greenwash campaign to try and “counter the negative perceptions surrounding the Palm Oil Industry”. The campaign involved the funding of a series of TV shows which were shown on CNBC and the BBC. The films where presented as current affairs when in fact the company which produced them; the FBC Group (ironically standing for Fact Based Media), where in the pay of Sime Darby and the Malaysian government.

Sime Darbys track record show it to be a company with little concern for local communities or the environment. They are driven only by profit and to this end will spend millions to appear “ethical” and “Sustainable” whilst continuing with business as usual. This film asks if we should trust such a company with the redevelopment of one of Britain’s most famous and Iconic buildings.

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Battersea Bulletin 28 – FoE claim Sime Darby, Malaysian co-owner of Battersea Power Station, involved in illegal logging

 Sime Darby, a member of the Malaysian consortium
which recently took over Battersea Power Station, has
been involved in illegal logging in the rain forests of
Malaysia and Indonesia, according to a 2010 report by
Friends of the Earth, ” ‘Sustainable’ palm oil driving deforestation. Biofuel crops, indirect land use change and emissions”, Friends of the Earth Europe, 2010

Download pdf Battersea_Bulletin_28

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“Profit, profit, profit! Where do they mention heritage, heritage, heritage?”

Disgruntled Twitter groups such as SAVEThe4Chimneys!, in support of preserving Battersea’s iconic Power Station, are campaigning online against plans to knock down and ‘replace’ the Power Station chimneys.

A Malaysian firm, Sime Darby – responsible for the deforestation of the Orangutan habitat for palm oil – was one of the organisations that bought the 39-acre south-west London site in July for £400m; they are now putting forward plans to destroy these British historical icons. Read more

In November 2008, Red Apes Org, a respected group that campaigns to protect  the orangutans of Malaysia described Ahmad Zubir Murshid as ‘evil’. The group says that oil palm cultivation is a grave threat to the survival of orangutans and that Sime Darby is a part of the problem. Read more

Pink Floyd’s next album cover perhaps?

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