Battersea Power Station – from no mans land to architectural extravaganza

 

bps small web

The iconic Battersea Power Station is at the heart of Rafael Vinoly’s master plan – a massive “regeneration” scheme for Battersea.

The riverfront district of Southwest London around the Battersea Power Station will soon be unrecognizable due to a huge “regeneration” scheme. The Battersea Power Station which has remained largely unused since its closure in 1983 is at the heart of this luxury housing development financed by a Malaysian real estate investment group Eco World.

This regeneration scheme has recently hit the headlines with its culmination London’s first ‘sky pool’, a swimming pool which has been planned to bridge two 10-storey buildings in Embassy Garden’s as a part of the Battersea “redevelopment” plan.

However Nine Elms ‘sky pool’ has not been acclaimed by everyone. A private swimming pool sky bridge in the middle of London’s affordable housing crises has stormed critique as a symbol of rising inequality. The recent newspaper headlines show the other side of the story of the highest residential swimming pool in London:

The Independent wrote: “Nine Elms ‘sky pool’: luxury London flat owners  will be able to swim while literally looking down on everyone else”.

In addition, The Guardian stated: “The ‘sky pool’ is just the start: London prepares for a flood of bathing oligarchs”.

The planned luxury flats are being criticized for being aimed at wealthy foreign buyers taking advantage of the rising value of property in London. In January 2013 the first residential apartments went on sale and now all of the Thames-facing apartments have already been sold, way before the project was even launched.

Last year the reselling cycle made possible that the flats with starting prices from £1 million were on sale later on the year for £1.5 million. However the rapidly increasing prices are only a one side of the issue. The fundamental conflict lies on the fact that only 16 % of the planned new homes (560 of the total of 3,444) will be affordable housing.

pbs model

The “redevelopment” of Battersea would change the Landscape of London – the iconic Power Station would be surrounded by huge building blocks.

Since the power station ceased generating electricity in the 80s, it has become one of the best known landmarks in London. As the largest brick building in Europe, the iconic power station was listed on the World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund in 2004.

During the past 50 years, numerous redevelopment plans for the Battersea Power Station have been introduced. However these projects have usually failed due to a lack of funding. In 2010 Real Estate Opportunities were granted permission to redevelop the power station. This resulted in the creation of the current master plan for Battersea, an architect Rafael Vinoly’s design which gained planning consent from Wandsworth Council in 2011.

However, Vinoly does not have exactly a clean architectural record. According to the BBC the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper on Fenchurch Street in London had been blamed for reflecting light and causing a ‘death ray’ with a high temperature. The 37-storey tower designed by Rafael Vinoly was claimed to damage vehicles by melting parts of them and even causing fires.

Last week Building Design magazine announced that Walkie Talkie, nicknamed because of its bulbous, curving shape was voted for the worst building in London. Building Design’s annual Carbuncle Cup sparked an online debate including not so flattering comments about the building such as one reader commenting: “I now have a new personal goal: to live long enough to see this building demolished”.

Now the planned Phase 3 with proposals for the future of Battersea and the power station has been revealed by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the project. The Phase 3 of the project will provide 1,310 residential homes with only 103 of them being affordable which is less than 8 % of the houses that are planned to be build.

Will this solve the growing divide in the London housing market? Very unlikely. So far it seems that the beneficiaries are the wealthy few who the housing crisis doesn’t hit with its sky-high prices.

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Do you have a view of Battersea Power Station?

Battersea Power Station

Do you have a view of Battersea Power Station from your flat window or balcony? We are looking for views of #BatterseaPowerStation for our film for the World Monument Fund.  As you may know the Battersea Power Station development means that many iconic views of the Power Station will be lost as the power station is surrounded by tall residential blocks. We are interested to get some shots of these views before they are gone so if you can help in any way please get in touch with Mark or Emily at bps@spectacle.co.uk

We would also like to hear from you if you have any stories about how the power station, past or present, has had an impact on your life.

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Mainstream media on Battersea Power Station’s financial and social unsustainability

Battersea Power Station, since the end of 2014, has been standing wounded with only three chimneys left, and we have not yet seen any sign that the Battersea Power Station Development Company is starting the rebuilding work on the SW chimney.

View from Battersea Park Station, taken by Spectacle on 23/02/2015

Battersea Power Station from Battersea Park Station. Image taken by Spectacle on 23/02/2015

Meanwhile, some of our worries about the social impact and the financial viability of the whole project have been shared by a number of different analysts.

For instance, our concerns about the financial viability of Big Bang Development grow stronger as main-stream financial newspapers, such as Bloomberg, have highlighted that after the positive performances of recent years, London’s house prices have now started going down.  Bloomberg states, in a recent article, that “prices in emerging prime London fell 2 percent in the final quarter of 2014, according to Douglas & Gordon” and that “the area, which includes the Nine Elms neighborhood, was the worst performer in “emerging prime” London last year, broker Douglas & Gordon Ltd. said”. “Overseas demand for prime London homes is cooling, and some upscale projects being marketed “have gone over to Asia and probably haven’t done as well as they would have” in early 2014” quoting Jack Simmons, head of U.K. residential development and investment at broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

This alarming report, suggesting that the degrading value of houses might scare investors and threaten the financial plan of big projects such as the one by Battersea Power Station Development Company, was corroborated in an article by The Telegraph. The Telegraph reports that properties in the Nine Elms area are already flipped, thrown on the market to make some gains, before even a single brick of the flats has been put in place. This circumstance seem to confirm our impressions, sharing with The Telegraph’s journalist the “concern that homes built in the early phase of the huge project, were mainly reserved by investors – who have waited for the market to pick up before “flipping” them – and overseas buyers”. Instead of sounding an alarm in the heads of Battersea Power Station Development Company, the same article tells us that a spokeswoman for the company said: “We launched phase one at Battersea Power Station over two years ago and we are pleased to see that the early pioneer purchasers, who helped to get this project off the ground have experienced good levels of growth”.

If fluctuations of the property market could turn investors away, the new strength of British Sterling on the foreign exchange market could cause even more troubles to South Asian Buyers. The Star, one of the most popular Malaysian news sites, published a page explaining how to deal with loans in foreign currencies to prevent investments, such as a flat in Battersea Power Station, turning disastrous by weaker local currencies.

Rahim & Co consultant, marketing (London properties), Guy Major says “It is ‘dangerous’ to have a mismatch between your ability to pay based in ringgit and a pound-denominated loan,” he says.

If our concerns about the finances of the project are aimed at putting question marks over the narrative used by big bang developers to sell their projects, other media apparently started sharing our worries about the social impact of this monster development. The Guardian came out recently with a long and quite critical article about Battersea Power Station, “the biggest building site in London, and one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe”. Significantly titling the article “Battersea is part of a huge building project – but not for Londoners”, the Guardian highlights the tendency of new developments in London to get higher – “Hong Kongification” as Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, puts it.

The Guardian quotes Ravi Govindia, the Conservative leader of Wandsworth council  “Yes, some of the buildings will be tall, but there will be a distinctly London flavour. It’s going to be a place that people [will] enjoy living in.” Govindia says, adding that the project “will bring 25,000 permanent jobs plus 20,000 construction and engineering jobs during the building phase”), the article warns that building luxury flats for wealthy foreign buyers is exacerbating the housing problem for thousands of Londoners in need of homes.

On the other hand, Will Martindale, Labour MP candidate for Battersea, in a blog posted on The Huffington Post, shared his concerns (and some of his neighbor’s) about the way Battersea is changing: property prizes going well beyond local people’s budgets, riverfront views are blocked by multi-story buildings and very few new flats will eventually house locals while oversea investors and developers will make a fortune. As Will Martindale says “This is our riverfront. It’s part of our shared heritage, not simply a strip of real estate. We would do well to remember Battersea Council’s old motto: Not for you, not for me, but for us.”

At the moment, our impression is that it’s becoming ever more theirs…

 

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Battersea Power Station and the Great British Housing Crisis

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently released an accurate and in-depth research about the British Housing Crisis.  The investigation is focused on the ever growing lack of social and affordable houses in UK, revealing some of the tricks developers use to overcome the commitments they are requested to fulfill by local authorities. The article is largely based on development schemes in the socalled Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area (VNEB). In these areas Spectacle has been engaged for years producing media and informative blogs about the social and economic flaws in “big bang” speculative developments and how they conflict with meaningful and sensitive architectural preservation and thriving urban environments. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s authors give interesting keys to understand the dynamics behind big projects, the contradictions of the property market and its impact on Britain’s most vulnerable people. We warmly recommend it.

Click on the image to read the article

This is how developers advertise their scheme on the fences around Battersea Power Station

This is the hilarious way developers choose to advertise their scheme on Battersea Power Station

 

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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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World Monuments Fund “Watch Day” Walk Battersea Power Station

Picture 2-4

NINE ELMS: ARCHITECTURAL WALK
COVENT GARDEN FLOWER MARKET – RIVERLIGHT SHOW FLAT – TIDEWAY VILLAGE HOUSEBOATS – BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Lead by Colin Thom of the Survey of London. With contributions from David Waterhouse, Stuart Tappin, Brian Barnes MBE and Keith Garner.
Saturday 27th September 2014. Meet 10.20 am Vauxhall bus garage (by No.87 bus stop) for 10.30 am departure.

To book or for further information contact Sarah Meaker at World Monuments Fund Britain: sarah@wmf.org.uk 020 7251 8142.
Suggested donation of £10 per attendee

Bring packed lunch and sensible shoes. Please advise World Monuments Fund Britain on 020 7251 8142 if you have particular access or mobility requirements.

Itinerary

10.20 Meet Vauxhall bus station. (No.87 bus stop.)

10.30 Depart and introductory talk by Colin Thom about the Vauxhall and Nine Elms area including the listed Brunswick House.

10.40 Covent Garden Flower Market (GMW 1974). Space frame structure using British Steel “Nodus” system.  The building was recently given certificate of immunity from listing by English Heritage. Shortly to be demolished, so the last chance to visit.

11.10 River walk to see the “Thames Hippo” and changing skyline of London.

11.50 Riverlight housing development (Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners) to see show flat with views of river Thames and London skyline.

12.45 Tideway Village riverboat community to meet David Waterhouse owner of The Newark.
Tea & coffee will be served on the Newark and we will eat our packed lunches.

14.00 Battersea Power Station. (Gate 2 in Kirtling Street.)  Colin Thom will talk about the history of the building.  Stuart Tappin will discuss the demolition of the chimneys which has recently begun.
NB: we will not be entering Battersea Power Station but the building is visible from the road.

14.45 Battersea Dogs Home to see cattery designed by Clough Williams-Ellis. We can see the cattery from Battersea Park Road.

15.00 Gas holder site to see the collection of gas holders. These were also recently given certificate of immunity from listing and are being demolished. The “MAN” gas holder is a German design and is contemporary with Battersea Power Station. The MAN gas holder at Oberhausen in the Ruhr has been reused as an arts space.

15.30 Walk ends at Battersea Park railway station. Grade II listed Italianate station.

NB: times are approximate and may be subject to change. We do not have access to Battersea Power Station or the gas holders site.

Contributors

Colin Thom is an architectural historian working with the Survey of London, formerly at English Heritage and now with University College London. He was co-author of the recently published Battersea volumes of the Survey of London.

Stuart Tappin is an independent consulting engineer specialising in the conservation of historic buildings He is a founder of Stand Consulting Engineers. He is a member of the architectural advisory panel of World Monuments Fund Britain.

David Waterhouse has lived at Tideway Dock for 14 years and created the community now known as Tideway Village. He runs a houseboat business in London and has a small mountain hotel high in the Alps. His love of boats started when he worked for three years on Square Rig sailing ships. He spends his time between London and Switzerland.

Brian Barnes MBE is an artist and mural painted based in Battersea. He was a founder member of Battersea Power Station Community Group in 1983.

Keith Garner is an architect based in Battersea, working on the conservation of historic buildings and landscapes. He is also interested in making buildings more accessible.

 

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Spectacle interviews Tideway Village co-founder David Waterhouse

tideway

Tideway Village: now in a construction site

`We recently interviewed David Waterhouse, resident and co-founder of Tideway Village. Tideway is a small community of houseboats (which includes the award-winning Battersea Barge venue) moored in and around a disused colliers dock that once served Battersea Power Station. David established Tideway in 2001 with Rainer Cole, who applied for a mooring in the previously empty dock at the same time by sheer coincidence.

David’s boats and two others are moored at the end of Nine Elms Lane, which runs through an industrial area that is now being turned into real estate by the Berkeley Group as part of the vast Nine Elms development. Since 2008, when it first came to light that the area would become a residential development, Tideway Village has been under threat.

Although the Tideway boats all have 15 year mooring rights – renewable with the Port of London Authority (PLA) –  they need permission to access the boats too, from whoever owns the land which borders the dock. Tideway is ostensibly bordered by the Thames Path – public land, controlled by the council – however a three foot wall between the path and the river is owned by the Berkeley Group.

Initially, the developers tried to deny residents access to their homes, in order to remove the boats. They intended to put a floating garden in their place, which David said would have killed all the aquatic life underneath. Tideway residents were not consulted or even notified about this. When they found out they launched a campaign to save their homes, including holding an open day and protesting outside a Wandsworth Council and Berkeley Group meeting. An e-petition gained 2000 signatures, including many people who had performed at or attended the Battersea Barge venue. If this hadn’t worked, David would have tried to invoke residents’ right to use the historic slipway at Nine Elms Pier which the boats are currently moored beside – this  has never been officially closed up.

Thankfully it never got to this, by campaigning and by challenging the common misconception of houseboat communities as people who just turn up (Tideway residents pay council tax and have a license to be there), David was able to persuade the Berkeley group that the community is serious and responsible and negotiate continued access to the boats. As a result, he believes they will be able to stay – he said he is currently tentatively optimistic about the future.

Having convinced the Berkeley Group that his community can fit into their vision of the waterfront, David now has a ‘relationship of a sort’ and a ‘good understanding’ with the developers, but before establishing this he suffered a lot of stress. Tragically, Rainer committed suicide in 2012, David believes the uncertainty of their situation was a factor in this.

David also acknowledges that the character of Tideway Village will change dramatically now. At first it was ‘very much a backwater’, an extraordinary, forgotten area, given how central it is. Having the space to themselves allowed the Tideway community to throw parties and hold open days, which won’t be possible anymore with blocks of flats overhanging the boats. In addition to this, David currently lives with near constant construction noise and access to the boats is restricted by the building work, which has closed part of the Thames Path .

Although David is happy that Tideway has a future, he lamented the fact that the Port of London Authority has never positively incorporated houseboat owners and moorings into the way it coordinates the river. He explained that it is extremely difficult to get moorings in London and believes that other places in Europe have all done more with their waterfronts in this respect. For this reason, he described the PLA as having “presided over the death of the Thames”. It has become a feature of the river, he said, that boats are frequently removed.

However David believes houseboats can be successfully incorporated into communities and is excited that Tideway now has the opportunity to prove this. David thinks Tideway could become to the Thames what Little Venice is to Regents Canal – it is a very special space, he explained, central London’s last functioning tidal dock in a landscape that was once full of tidal docks.

Tideway Village will be a stop, and David a speaker, on a walking tour organised by the Battersea Power Station Community Group and sponsored by the World Monument Fund on the 27th September.

David has also agreed to participate in one of our 4 day training courses, so Tideway Village may serve as a ‘real life project’ for future Spectacle trainees.

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A brief update on Battersea Power Station and the Nine Elms development

bps2

As construction work progresses on the Battersea Power Station site, the Battersea Power Station Development Company’s (BPSDC) ambitious plans for the project appear to be moving rapidly forwards too; last week it was revealed that the company have made an official bid for the proposed Crossrail 2 line to serve the location. An extension of the Northern Line, Charing Cross Branch, is already planned (and will be partially financed by Sime Darby, the Malaysian consortium behind the Battersea Power Station Development Company) from Kennington to the Power Station. The Evening Standard reports that TfL is citing this as a reason to distance itself from the proposal, insisting Battersea Power Station will already be adequately connected.

Meanwhile, on the ground Everyman continue to lease an area in front of the Power Station to screen films and sell expensive, ‘ethnic’ food in the evenings from Thursday to Sunday. Last week our interns, Charlotte and Marta, risked death by falling chimney chunk to check out the event and sneak some surreptitious footage. Surprisingly they survived, reporting only giant Jenga pieces flying around.

Elsewhere, on the neighbouring Nine Elms site, all-consuming construction work has spilled out onto the Thames Path, limiting access to Tideway Village, a floating community of houseboats now overhung by the Riverlight development buildings.

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Health and safety gone mad?… Events held at Battersea Power Station despite ‘big chunks falling off’ chimneys

The first of Battersea Power Station’s emblematic cream chimneys is likely to be demolished this month by its current owners, the Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), which is part of the Sime Darby consortium. The company claims its intention is to replace the chimneys – which it says are beyond repair (despite evidence to the contrary) – with identical replicas. However both John Broome’s precedent and discrepancies between the company’s reasoning and its actions suggest this might never happen, as, of course, does the commercial potential of the site, without the power station sitting awkwardly in the centre of it.

Footage shows Robert Tincknell, Chief Executive Officer of Battersea Power Station Development Company, insisting that the chimneys have “structurally failed” and that “big chunks are falling off”. However the company continues to lease the site for public events, including Everyman Cinema film screenings and ‘Street Feasts’, held in the shadow of the chimneys Tincknell says are disintegrating. Event-goers have not been told to wear hard hats or other protective gear, but perhaps this is because these things would be useless in the event that an entire chimney is brought down by high wind, as Richard Barrett, an Irish property investor who co-owned Battersea Power Station before it was bought by the Sime Darby consortium, has previously suggested may happen at any time.

The Sime Darby consortium – which has been accused of exploiting the local community at their oil palm plantation in Liberia – have so far put up only £11 million of bond money to guarantee the replacement of the chimneys, a woefully small sum, and one suggested by their own employee, Philip Gullet, Chief Operating Officer at Battersea Power Station Development Company. In addition to this the bond money has been deposited into an account with Malaysian bank CIMB, making it more difficult for Wandsworth Council and English Heritage to access it in the event that Battersea Power Station Development Company default. According to campaigners, it is imperative to its retrieval that the bond money is moved to a British bank account.

In response to these criticisms, Battersea Power Station Development Company have agreed to a meagre compromise; they will demolish one chimney to begin with and must partially rebuild this before they can demolish the other three. This is still flouting the Council’s original rules, which said that the chimneys must be demolished one at a time.
Campaigners believe that partially rebuilding one tower is not enough to guarantee the completion of four new chimneys. They suggest that Battersea Power Station Development Company are clearing the site little by little and point to the fact that, despite owning a vast swathe of riverfront, Battersea Power Station Development Company have removed the power station’s listed cranes purportedly to allow the chimney rubble to be removed by boat. There are concerns that the cranes won’t be brought back, and some consider their removal to be further evidence that Sime Darby have no intention of actually renovating the power station.

However, in an unusually considerate move,Battersea Power Station Development Company have at least set up a helpline number, for those traumatised by the sight of the maimed power station scarring the skyline, perhaps during their daily commute.

Our short video comments on the discrepancy between the developer’s claim that the chimneys are rapidly disintegrating, and their actions in allowing public events to take place on site, directly below the “structurally failed” chimneys. It also includes the helpline number, in case you feel personally disturbed by the destruction of Battersea Power Station.

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Battersea Power Station Chimneys demolition- History repeating

URGENT NEWS ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION CHIMNEY DEMOLITION

Thursday 12th June representatives of the BPSCG (Battersea Power Station Community Group) met with Paul Landsberg of Wandsworth Borough Council Planning Department to discuss their concerns regarding the legal and financial protections in place ahead of the imminent demolition of the chimneys, in particular whether the bond is in force and whether it is large enough to cover the cost of rebuilding the chimneys should the developer fail to replace them.  What they discovered was deeply disturbing:

The bond money is held in a Malaysian bank, CIMB
The value of the bond for the reconstruction of three and a half chimneys is only £11million.
The value of the bond is based on an estimate supplied by Philip Gullet of the Battersea Power Station Development Company.
This estimate has not been independently checked by cost consultants employed by Wandsworth Council or English Heritage.
The contract sum for the demolition and rebuilding of the chimneys was redacted from the copy of the contract sent to Wandsworth. So it is not possible to compare demolition costs against rebuilding.
The Council does not know if the bond is signed and in force, although the reconstruction contract starts next Monday.

HISTORY REPEATING…

This is all the more alarming in light of what happened when John Broome, the first failed developer of the site, took down but never replaced the west wall and roof, as it remains to this day. The council’s own report in 1989 criticised the woeful lack of safeguards and- some would say- gullibility of the planning officers.

According to Battersea Power Station Community Group the bond money should be held in a British bank if Wandsworth and English Heritage are to have any chance of getting at it in the event of a default.  The total value of the bond also needs to be increased substantially if it is to be able to cover the reconstruction of three and a half chimneys, if a default occurs.

With the chimneys reconstruction contract about to start, it is clear that Wandsworth Council and English Heritage are not protecting our cultural heritage -either in checking the proposed value of the bond or making sure the contract is signed and enforceable before the demolition and reconstruction project starts.

With interest rates about to rise, the possibility of the project failing yet again is increasing by the day.  If this happens when the chimneys are down, and it turns out the bond money isn’t there (as was the case in 1989 after Broome went bust)  the chimneys will never be rebuilt.

We need to rescue Battersea Power Station from these shameless, grey, dozing men who will sell our industrial heritage for peanuts and the enrichment of foreign “investors”. Keep an eye on the revolving door!

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