Battersea Power Station – “London Only” sales claim is Bogus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALondon, in recent years, has seen a boom in foreign property investment. With various far Eastern economies generating a new class of super-rich, London’s property market bubble is seen as a safe cash haven for this elite. According to Savills, international premium property retailer, 50% of the capital’s prime central homeowners is now dominated by overseas investors, which is furiously contributing to property price inflation.

Naturally, with Battersea Power Station being such an historically renowned architectural and industrial, Grade II listed, British icon, many are wishing to get a slice of the 400ft riverside views. Malasyian developers, Sime Darby, aim to create 3,500 new homes in 15 years, and have already sold nearly all of the 866 luxury apartments of the initial Circus West (or Phase 1) project, generating $1 billion prior to even being built.

However, much contention surrounded the project when Sime Darby refused to release what percentage of their buyers were domestic or international. With property shows for the Battersea homes, which range from £365,000 per studio flat to £6million per penthouse, advertising in China, Russia and Malaysia it is now clear that around 55% of the homes, went to foreign money before even appearing in the pages of Property Week in Blighty.

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This flew in the face of London Mayor, Boris Johnson, who had previously pledged that all property developed within the Power Station would be offered to Londoners first. Slightly perversely, the lack of priortisation for local buyers has been marketed as an apparent strain on London’s unaffordable housing problems, despite some penthouse suites retailing for up to £30million. As a result, developers have recently made a big song and dance about the London Launch of the Phase 2 development. These properties are intended to be exclusively on offer to UK residents before they are made globally available. The Battersea Power Station website encourages visitors to “Register an Interest” and Rob Tincknell, CEO of Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), recently claimed that:

“There has been a lot of comment recently about London’s housing problems and we believe the only way to try and solve this is to build great homes and create a community that people actually want to live in”

However, this PR stunt has recently been unearthed with a simple phone call to Battersea Power Station Development Company sales team. Upon being deciphered as an authentic potential buyer, the mole was told categorically that while there is a strict London-only launch of the Phase 2 properties on 1st May 2014, overseas investors are more than welcome to purchase the prospective homes if they are in the country or through their UK based agents. Therefore demonstrating that the press have once again been romanced into believing that developments of one of the greatest icons in British industrial history will be more than a juicy, international investment for oligarchs and millionaires. They have let this charade by developers go unchallenged and have reported it verbatim, letting our beloved Battersea Power Station slip further and further into flipping international hands.

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A Victory for Vito – The Chelsea Bridge Kiosk is Saved!

After a campaign by Keith Garner, Brian Barnes, and lease-holder Renato Di Paola to keep the Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall on Queenstown Road from closure, their efforts have proven fruitful.

An online petition for the retention of the stall gathered nearly 1000 signatures from locals and “Ex-Bats” (people who were from Battersea, but have since emigrated as far away as Australia), all in support of the kiosk.

Original complaints and a request for the license (which still has a year left to run) to be revoked came from 27 members of the Chelsea Bridge Wharf Residents Association, whose apartments overlook the kiosk. The complaints described noise-pollution, litter and anti-social behaviour, such as urinating on stairs by the river and kicking balls. However, although residents submitted ‘photographic evidence’ of the litter in November and December, it was pointed out that the same photographs were repeated for each month. A trend that was also repeated in another 11 pages of images that were duplicated.

It was found that alleged complaints about noise were never made to the council. Therefore, the council proposed a litter cleaning every 1.5 hours, but otherwise supported general consensus that Roberto’s nighttime license should remain intact.

See our interview with Roberto in 2009 here.

 

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Next victim Battersea Power Station: the cranes

The new owners want to remove the listed cranes in front of the Power Station in order to use the jetty for the removal of spoil from tunnelling the Northern Line Extension ( NLE ). While it might be necessary to dismantle the cranes in order to restore there is no need to tie the timetable to the NLE works. The NLE will take years to complete even if it happens. Like the Euston Arch there is a real danger once removed they will never be put back. There is half a mile of river front where a more suitable purpose built jetty could be situated. It looks like yet another ploy to slowly clear the site of any historic or heritage obstacles to maximising profits- see demolition by stealth.

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Coal was usually brought to the Battersea Power Station by collier ships, and unloaded by cranes, which are still intact on the station’s riverfront. These two cranes were used to unload coal from barges for Battersea Power Station, and despite 25 years of disuse are in remarkably complete condition. But obviously the owners of the Battersea Power Station don’t care much about that. They’ve already got permission to take the cranes down.

The jetty facilities used two cranes to offload coal, with the capacity of unloading two ships at one time, at a rate of 480 tonnes an hour. Coal was also delivered by rail to the east of the station using the Brighton Main Line which passes near the site. Coal was usually delivered to the jetty, rather than by rail. A conveyor belt system was then used to take coal to the coal storage area or directly to the station’s boiler rooms. The conveyor belt system consisted of a series of bridges connected by towers. The coal storage area was a large concrete box capable of holding 75,000 tonnes of coal. This had an overhead gantry with a conveyor belt attached to the conveyor belt system, for taking coal from the coal store to the boiler rooms

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Now, the cranes will be facing demolishing. Even though they’re part of the listed Battersea Power Station and mentioned in the listing description:

”Subsidiary features: To the N on a jetty parallel to the river wall there are two cranes which were used to unload coal from collier boats. While of lesser significance, they were integral parts of the original complex and are now rare riverside features.”

The cranes complement the Battersea Power Station and help to explain its purpose and function. Other industrial archeology has already been lost, notably the travelling coal conveyor (dismantled by Parkview in 1995) and the raking conveyors into the building.

They should receive extra protection given these other losses.

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Licence to Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall to be revoked?

Wandsworth Council are considering revoking the licence to the 70 year old Chelsea Bridge Tea Stall. Poor owner Vito is on the edge of losing his beloved shop. Watch our 2009 interview with Vito about his stall here. Another attempt to please the rich?

Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall adjacent Chelsea Bridge, Queenstown Road, London

Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall adjacent Chelsea Bridge, Queenstown Road, London

The ‘high class’ salesmen seem to look down on the simple and tasty snacks and warming drinks Vito is selling. Before we know it, we will find this stand being replaced by a Michelin star finger food stall.

Susan Ekins, a regular visitor who is fond of the Tea Stand, says:

As you may know, this stand has been there for at least 70 years, and is much appreciated. The residents of the new blocks did not like the biker gatherings, and as I understand it, these have, in general, being closed down and parking kept away from close proximity to the stand. I use that bridge at all hours, but have never noticed any litter or noise – which is not to say that it has not happened.

The application for review has been handed in on the 9th of January 2014. It has been made on the following grounds, according to Wandsworth Council:

”The current conditions on the licence have failed to uphold the licensing objectives of the prevention of public nuisance and the prevention of crime and disorder in the premises is giving rise to unacceptable levels of noise, litter and general anti-social behaviour.”

 

Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall adjacent Chelsea Bridge, Queenstown Road, London

Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall adjacent Chelsea Bridge, Queenstown Road, London

Surely the council is not just cooking up excuses to continue to socially cleanse the area around the so called Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea “Opportunity” Area. Seems one person’s opportunity is another’s loss of livelihood.

Find here another objection, from Keith Garner, architect and member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group.

Dear Sirs,

Chelsea Bridge Coffee Stall adjacent Chelsea Bridge, Queenstown Road, London, SW8 2R

I am writing to support the retention and renewal of the licence for the the Chelsea Bridge coffee stall which is a useful local facility for residents and people working in the area, as well as a local landmark and institution in its own right.

I have lived close to Battersea Park for 28 years. As a local resident I know of no grounds for revoking or otherwise refusing to renew or extend the licence. In my experience, the customers of the stall have always been well behaved.  This is not to say that there might not be occasional lapses.  But is it important in an urban situation that everyone goes that little bit further to be tolerant and understanding.

The stall has been there for as long as I can remember.  I went there when the old “Chelsea Cruise” used to happen on Saturday evenings in the seventies and eighties. It certainly pre-dates the riverside flats by many decades.  The owners of the flats would have been aware of the stall before the moved in, and had the option to go elsewhere.  In any case the flats are some distance from the kiosk which is on the bridge itself.

The management of the riverside flats are being too sensitive. I know from my own recent experience that it is not even possible to stop and look at the view from the riverside walk at night time, without their security guards coming out.  The loss of the kiosk would further contribute to the loss of life and vitality on the riverside that these recent luxury flats represent.

The coffee stall makes Battersea more interesting.  It should be retained and valued.

Yours faithfully,

Keith Garner

Hopefully the objections will be taken seriously. All we can do now is wait for a final decision.

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Congress is about to pull funding on the £600m US embassy

We just received more evidence to support the flawed nature of the BPS scheme. The US Congress is withdrawing the money for developing the US embassy, according to a detail contained in the latest bipartisan budget deal. And even more good news: the decision could also affect Boris Johnson’s plan for the Northern Line Extension. As reported on the Financial Times and Buzzfeed. This will seriously affect the Nine Elms Battersea opportunity area.

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The enormous glass cube which was about to become the US embassy is currently being built on the south side of the Thames in central London. It was seen as key to spurring the redevelopment of the Nine Elms area of the capital and led to talk of a new “embassy quarter”, with the Netherlands and China also considering plans to move their diplomatic missions to the same area. Transport for London documents state that the “first major contributor” to the enterprise zone “is expected to be the US Embassy”.

Together with the news that the development officer at the Battersea Power Station Development Company is leaving the project in May. Looks like Peak Power Station has been reached and is already downsizing.

Alistair Shaw, who joined the Battersea development team in February 2013, handed his notice in before Christmas and will leave in May to pursue other development interests in the West End and central London. Shaw previously worked as the head of retail development at Stanhope on projects including Hereford town centre, which is due for completion later this year.

A revised planning application for Battersea Power Station has been submitted and will be heard in April, while a reserved matters planning application for the high street element of the scheme is expected to be submitted in April.

Seems like some positive changes are finally happening.

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Business model of Battersea Power Station flawed

The business model of the development of the Battersea Power Station is flawed. It only needs a slight shift in interest rates or property taxes, or for the value of the pound to rise relative to Asian currencies for the foreign investor led property market boom to collapse according to Bloomberg.

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It is this flawed and precarious property bubble that Transport for London (TfL) is sinking billions of pounds of public money to prop up.

At the recent public inquiry into the Northern Line Extension the response from the representatives of TfL to the many compelling arguments against the scheme made in Battersea Power Station Community Group’s objection was to insist the NLE was not aimed at solving local transport infrastructure issues but to enhance property values in the so called Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area.

In this time of austerity can this really be a good use of public money? It is also probably one of the most useless, unwanted and extravagant public infrastructure projects ever proposed.

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London’s status as a magnet for foreign property investment was burnished in the years after the financial crisis by an investor-friendly tax regime and the falling value of the pound. That may be changing.

A new capital-gains tax on homes sold by people living abroad and a growing British economy that’s lifting the currency may dull the capital city’s appeal to property buyers from abroad. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the new capital-gains tax in a statement to Parliament on Dec. 5. It will apply to “future gains” after the tax goes into effect in April 2015, he said without specifying the size of the levy. Capital-gains tax rates for second homes of U.K. residents currently range from 18 percent to 28 percent. Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, head of the Liberal Democrats, which govern in a coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, support an annual levy on houses valued at more than 2 million pounds known as the mansion tax. Cameron opposes the idea.

Other than that, South Asian buyers account for two-thirds of new London homes sold before completion, according to Land Securities Group Plc, the largest U.K. real estate investment trust. The high-end market is dependent on pre-sales to overseas buyers to help get development finance and deal with rising land costs, Michael Lister, a lecturer at University of Westminster, said in a Nov. 22 interview. Singapore and Hong Kong, two destinations also favored by south Asian buyers, have introduced measures to cool property prices and curb speculation. Singapore linked borrowers’ maximum debt levels to their incomes and raised transaction and capital-gains taxes. Hong Kong has increased minimum down payments six times in fewer than three years and in February doubled stamp-duty taxes for all properties over HK$2 million ($258,000).

To end with, the pound plummeted against a basket of major currencies after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., making London homes a relative bargain for wealthy investors and buyers from emerging Asian economies. The Singapore dollar gained 60 percent against the pound from September 2007 to June this year and the Malaysian ringgit climbed by 50 percent. Since then, the pound has risen 6.8 percent and 12 percent respectively against the Asian currencies.

Farmer of EC Harris said:

“One of the key drivers around demand in that market, particularly from the Far East, has been the relative weakness of sterling over the last three or four years,”“The improving economy is good for U.K. Plc but it might make residential investment slightly less competitive or good value in the eyes of the international community.”

View the full article.

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What a way to run a Railway Inquiry

From day one TfL (Transport for London) made it clear the proposed Northern Line Extension (NLE) was not about addressing transport infrastructure but about enhancing property values in the so called Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area.

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The only question the NLE seems to address is how, in the middle of a freezing winter, can a City Fat Cat wake up in his £30m glass and steel penthouse, that desecrates the Art Deco architectural integrity of the Power Station and, North American style, get to his City penthouse office “desk” without going outside. Going to “work”  attired in just summer casuals- slacks and short sleeve shirt?

Answer have public money spent on running an underground tube to your door step so you can take a private lift down to the platform ( via the shopping mall ) and get on a city branch train direct to the City.

Aside from the ludicrous cost of this white elephant toy train for the rich there is the fact that all those commuters living south of Kennington will have to change trains there to get on the City Branch.

Since 1983 the Battersea Power Station Community Group have drawn attention to the neglect of the Battersea Power Station by a succession of owners. They have criticised inappropriate and harmful development proposals and proposed their own alternatives, such as the People’s Plan of 1986. Recently they released their ‘Proof of Evidence’ on the Northern Line Extension in Battersea. A summary of what came out of it:

“We support the principle of connecting the tube to Battersea Power Station, provided it was publicly funded and serves the whole of north Battersea, including Battersea Park, Latchmere and Clapham Junction, reducing unit costs. We also feel that transportation improvements could be achieved more quickly and at lower cost if other transort modes had also been considered. The current proposal represents poor value of money.

We do not consider that having a tube station in east Battersea to be a condition precedent for the succesful redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station site or other sites in the VNEB ”Opportunity Area” would certainly not be considered. The development of these sites has gone ahead on the basis of existing transport infrastructure. The justification that the NLE would support development at higher densities necessary to pay for it is circular and illogical.

We fear that, despite the arguments advanced at this inquiry, the decision to build NLE has already been made. The NLE appears in government budgets and announcements where is it talked about by politicians as if already agreed. Implementation of planning permission 2009/3575 is impossible without the NLE being built. Nevertheless we hope that – in the light of the evidence presented- the outcome of this inquiry will confound the expectations of TfL and Wandsworth Council, and will cause transport provision in east Battersea to be reconsidered.”

Connecting Battersea to the tube network (NLE or some other line) is a wider public good. The developer of the Battersea Power Station site should not be asked to pay for this.

To conclude with, transportation improvements could be made more quickly and at lower costs if other transport modes had been considered. The current proposal represents very poor value for money. Connecting the tube to Battersea Power Station would however be supported, provided it was publicly funded and serves the whole of north Battersea, including Battersea Park, Latchmere and Clapham Junction, reducing unit costs.

For a full critique of the NLE see Proof of Evidence 13-12-13

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Opponents of the Northern Line Extension, and why they’re right

At the start of this year, January 28, there was already opposition against the extension of the Northern Line. Liberal Democrats in Lambeth have suggested a Docklands-style light rail or monorail link between Waterloo, Vauxhall and Battersea as an alternative. Local campaigners also question the transport benefits of adding an extra branch to an already complicated and overcrowded rail route like the Northern line.

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“The only way to relieve the existing crush let alone cope with the massive influx of fresh commuters being generated by the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea new town is by a completely separate system,” say the Lambeth Liberal Democrats in an unsigned comment piece published on the party website.”

”We’ve suggested it before and we’ll say it again, there needs to be a thorough appraisal of a light rail elevated transport system like the Docklands Light Railway.”

”Common sense suggests that this would be massively cheaper than a deep-bored tube line and it could even be a 21st-century monorail system rather than the slightly Trumpton-esque DLR.”

”It could also run all the way to Waterloo – maybe attached to the existing railway viaduct – and later linked to the DLR. After all there’s massive regeneration going on south of the river all the way from Wandsworth to Southwark.”

See the full article.

More recently, the Guardian reported about the concerns of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home:

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home is demanding Transport for London (TfL) reconsiders plans for the Northern line extension over fears it will force its animals to be relocated.

The rescue home, in Battersea Park Road, Battersea, is within touching distance of a new station planned to open at Battersea Power Station.

Chiefs at the charity have said the welfare of the animals could be affected during construction, while the extension would mean the rescue home could not expand in the future.

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The Evening Standard reports that the rescue home has joined the Beefeater Gin distillery in nearby Kennington, to write to the Transport Secretary opposing being made to sell large swaths of property. It would have to vacate 70 per cent of its site on a 14-day notice, it says, under legislation proposed by TfL.

In the letter to Patrick McLoughlin, seen by property website CoStar News, home chief executive Claire Horton calls TfL’s sweeping powers “excessive”, adding that the transport body “has insufficient understanding of the complexity and sophistication of the facilities at our building”.

Chivas Brothers, operators from the Beefeater distillery, has also written objecting to TfL’s plans to compulsorily purchase land for a ventilation shaft. The company says dangers posed by the construction would prevent it operating on the site.

Enough reasons to reconsider the Northen Line Extension, so it seems.

Michèle Dix, managing director of planning for TfL, said: “We are working through a Transport and Works Act Order process and are not expecting a decision on the Northern line extension from the Government until summer 2014.

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Public inquiry into proposed Northern Line Extension to Nine Elms and Battersea

Transport for London (TFL) is proposing to extend the Northern line (Charing Cross branch) to Battersea, via a new station at Nine Elms, as part of wider plans to regenerate the Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea area.

If you’re interested in this, view the provisional outline programme for public inquiry, which is running the next four weeks.

This Northern line extension (NLE) forms part of wider plans to regenerate the Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea area.

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Following public consultations in 2010 and 2011, the Council’s Cabinet approved a recommendation to support this preferred route (January 2012 Cabinet Report). However, in response to community concerns, TfL was asked to do some further design work and analysis, particularly around the locations of the shaft.

TfL has now produced an update leaflet on the consultation and work so far. Further consultation is proposed over the coming months. You can find out more or sign up for regular updates at the TfL Northern line extension page.

The extension of the Northern line is part of wider plans to improve public transport in the area to respond to levels of development expected in Vauxhall and Nine Elms. Additional public transport is needed to support this new development and to benefit existing residents and businesses.

Less pressure on Vauxhall station and relief to the existing Northern line south of Kennington. The extension is a partially privately funded project by the site developers, SP Setia and palm oil conglomerate Sime Darby, with contributions from other sources such as the proposed new US Embassy. Subject to permission from the Secretary of State for Transport to build and operate the extension and the required funding being in place, construction could begin in 2015, and the extension could be open by 2020.Battersea will be the new southern terminus, with a new station at Nine Elms on Wandsworth Road. Both new stations will be in Travelcard Zone 2.

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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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