Battersea Power Station – Sale agreed but not signed

According to a source in English Heritage, the Malaysian consortium (Sime Darby, SP Setia and Employees Provident Fund) who have agreed to buy Battersea Power Station have not actually signed the contract – so it is not too late to change their minds.

 

One of the iconic images of the power station - Pink Floyd's Animals

 

A recent announcement of a predicted 30% fall in the London property prices is just one of the reasons why the consortium and it’s shareholders may want to think again.

Reading the Asian press, it doesn’t seem like the consortium, or at least their shareholders, actually realise the costs, limitations and responsibilities involved in buying a grade II listed building.

Press release articles surrounding the sale refer vaguely to ‘possible preservation‘ of the power station, with talk of merely ‘motivator profit‘ and also of the potential of a ‘400m river front‘ that seems to completely ignore the power station itself, and indeed the smelly waste disposal unit situated directly on the river front in question.

The power station features heavily in London’s iconography, recently throughout the London 2012 Olympics with James Bond and Her Majesty taking a flight over it in the Opening Ceremony, and also it features as one of the ‘London Landmarks’ . Hopefully this renewed pride of Londoners will force English Heritage to awake from it’s slumber and move into action insisting on repairs to Battersea Power Station, which could potentially be extremely expensive.

 

 

Nick Cuff, chairman of Planning at Wandsworth Borough Council spoke at the Future of Battersea event (Southbank University, 26th July), claiming that the Northern Line extension would probably not be funded by the developer but by central Government as part of its infrastructure investment programme. Interestingly, the major reason cited by REO (the previous developers) for having significantly less than the required 50% affordable housing was precisely because they were having to contribute to the tube line extension. So SP Setia and Sime Darby need to factor in the 50% affordable housing into their new development plans.

It has also been reported that the consortium will adopt the Vinoly plan, but this does not seem to make sense. Why would they take on such an implausible and previously failed scheme? The greedy and expensive Vinoly plan justified being so densely developed in order to recoup the costs of transport infrastructure – so that too can be challenged if the taxpayer is expected to foot the Northern Line extension costs.

So despite the attempts by Wandsworth Borough Council to present the change of ownership as a seamless continuation of the old Battersea Power Station development started by REO in fact everything is up for grabs again. The new owners and their share holders could find themselves with a completely unviable scheme and a PR disaster. Crassly developing or neglecting this much loved building could result in the new owners being the most despised developers in London.

Its not too late for the consortium to change their mind. Their share holders should be asking- do they know what they have let themselves in for?

 

 

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Letter to English Heritage from Battersea Power Station Community Group on future plans

 

Keith Garner has written the letter below on behalf of the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) to English Heritage. It outlines their proposal to purchase the monumental building for £1 and then their community driven plans for the future of the station.

 

12th June 2012
Dr Edward Impey
English Heritage
1 Waterhouse Square
138 – 142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST

Dear Edward,

BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Thank you for calling me last week to discuss Battersea Power Station following our recent letter to Kay Andrews asking her for a meeting. It was good to hear from you again of course, but I was disappointed to hear that Kay Andrews is not able to see us, and that English Heritage does not think it has a role to play in resolving this long-standing issue at this time.

As has been EH’s policy in recent times, you are leaving it to others to come up with solutions. Our most recent initiative – one of many over the last 29 years – was to propose to the administrators to divide Battersea Power Station itself from the South Lambeth Goods Yard site (acquired by John Broome), placing the former in a trust with an endowment, and selling the latter to pay the creditors. The Battersea Power Station Company – a charitable trust we set up in 2002 – offered £1 to take over the building and to open it to the public in the short term. We discussed this last week when you agreed that this sounded like a plausible approach.

Other organisations have also been active in bringing forward initiatives. In April, the Twentieth Century Society organised a symposium to discuss the future of the building. One of the key points of consensus to emerge was desirably of some form of trust ownership, which prompted us to make our bid. Other than the Survey of London personnel, I don’t think English Heritage was represented at the symposium. This was unfortunate, as you would also have seen a very interesting scheme for the building and surrounding area put forward by Marcus Binney of SAVE and Graham Morrison of Allies & Morrison.

The scheme develops ideas in SAVE’s 1981 report (which Graham Morrison also worked on) proposing an amphitheatre in the central boiler house space. This would be unroofed initially using temporary seating similar to that proposed for Olympic events, e.g. A&M’s scheme for Greenwich Park. Longer term, the intention would be to roof the space (an unroofed space would not be a good neighbour in the longer term) and to re-inhabit other parts of the building. Meanwhile the development of the surrounding site would commence.

The scheme would achieve many of the things Battersea Power Station Community Group has advocated over the years. It allows public access to Battersea Power Station. It proposes a sensible phased refurbishment of the building itself and the site around, taking a much longer view than other schemes we have seen. New buildings respect the scale of the Power Station and allow it to continue to exist as an urban monument. The listed Victorian pumping station is also retained. (We would hope of course to see social housing of various kinds as well.)

We also feel that the SAVE/Allies & Morrison scheme is consistent with our proposal to divide the two sites, with the Power Station put into a trust. Indeed, the SAVE/Allies & Morrison scheme might be facilitated if this was done. There is a strong commercial case for SP Setia to put the Power Station into a trust. As a predominantly public building it becomes a “draw” raising the profile of the adjacent commercial site. But at the same time, SP Setia would not be responsible for looking after the building or making it work commercially.

Much of the inflated price of £400m is predicated on having to pay for the “restoration” of the building. This in turn will lead to the over-development of the surrounding site; as we have already seen with the widely condemned Vinoly outline permission. If the obligation to look after the listed building is taken away from SP Setia, then perhaps some height reductions can be negotiated, to the scale A&M propose? Some funding could plausibly come from the HLF instead, the popular Battersea Power Station being a worthy recipient of public money.

There is a further question you should take up with central government, namely the financing of the Northern Line extension. Battersea Power Station Community Group is sceptical as to the necessity of this line, given the two overground stations, plentiful buses etc. But if it is to happen the new owners should not be expected to make a £200m contribution toward the cost of it. The public good here is the preservation of and public access to Battersea Power Station. The new owners should not be encumbered with the additional cost of funding a tube contribution as well.

Surely then, this is an opportunity for English Heritage to influence the future of Battersea Power Station. But there is little time as only 28 days – the ‘due diligence’ period – has been allowed for negotiations. The building is still standing, another over-development has collapsed – as predicted – and the threat to demolish the chimneys is no longer imminent. And there are very positive and possible ideas to save Battersea Power Station as outlined above. With all these factors before us, now would seem to be a good time to meet.

Yours sincerely,
Keith Garner
for Battersea Power Station Community Group
E-mail: keithwgarner@btinternet.com

cc Mr Paul Appleton Allies & Morrison
Brian Barnes MBE BPSCG
Mr Marcus Binney SAVE Britain’s Heritage
Dr Catherine Croft Twentieth Century Society
Lord Alf Dubs

Answer came there none.

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Battersea Power Station

Architect Keith Garner, has written a letter to Architect Journal according to the Battersea Power Station developments.

” You say in your editorial (10th May 2012) that the suggested move by Chelsea FC is a “the most thrilling and plausible vision” put forward for the building to date.  You also criticise deputy mayor Eddie Lister for opposing the move.  It is true that, in his time as Leader of Wandsworth Council, Eddie Lister presided over three failed schemes for Battersea Power Station.  But in opposing the move by Chelsea, Eddie Lister is right.

Lack of infrastructure cited by Lister is one of many reasons why this scheme won’t work.  Sketches by KPF that you also publish show that he stadium will take up space currently occupied by the Cringle Street refuse transfer station.  Where will the transfer station go?  Nor do you mention the new US Embassy would be overshadowed by the Russian oligarch’s stadium.   Surely the State Department will have something to say about that?

Far from maintaining the integrity of the II* listed building as you suggest, KPF’s sketches show that the ‘B’ Station turbine hall would be demolished, so the essential symmetry of the building would be lost.  Still worse is the idea of grafting a 60,000 seat stadium onto the side of a building which is (currently) famous as a solitary urban monument.

This is an unviable and unattractive scheme that would condemn Battersea Power Station to years of further neglect while Ambramovich & his team try to make it work.  It does the AJ no credit to support it.

Fortunately the question of Battersea Power Station was given a more sober assessment at the recent Twentieth Century Society seminar, which was timed to coincide with the sale of the building following the collapse of the scheme by the previous owner Treasury Holdings.  One of the key points to emerge from the meeting was that the building should be passed to a public interest trust, with an endowment to fund repairs.

In pursuit of this objective, the Battersea Power Station Company (a development trust set up by Battersea Power Station Community Group) has offered £1.00 for the freehold of the building by sale deadline.    The remainder of the site (the former South Lambeth Goods Yard site to the south, not historically a part of the Power Station) would be sold to raise the money owed to the creditor banks and give an endowment to the trust.

By this route, Battersea Power Station could be opened in the short term as a “controlled ruin” in a public park with a riverside walk to Battersea Park.  The building could then be repaired and brought back into used in a sensible phased refurbishment as funds permit.  Meanwhile commercial development could proceed on the flat land to the south unencumbered by the task of making a profit from the listed building itself.

“Investment and vision”, as you say.  Well, state-controlled Lloyds Bank is one of the two main creditors and could retain a stake in the project.  Now it is time for the GLA, Wandsworth Council and English Heritage – who have all sat on their hands while the building has deteriorated – to get around the table with administrators Ernst & Young to make this desirable outcome a reality.

Very well done Chelsea FC for winning the Champions League.  But please stay at The Bridge! ” (Keith Garner, 2012)

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Chel-batter-sea’s temple of power

Football-orientated-eyes from all over the world were focused on Chelsea during the weekend of  May 19th 2012. The London football club  became world champions after the Champions League final against Bayern München. After a breath taking penalty session, Chelsea won and became officially the best football club worldwide. This has put London and their famous club owned by one of the richests men on earth in a global spotlight. Just in times when the club is exploring new possibilities for a powerful new stadium.

Two weeks ago the football club was already in the news about the submitted bid to buy Battersea Power Station to transform it into a new stadium for the blue team. The Battersea Power Station. Once the scenery of Pink Floyd’s ‘Animals‘ album including the event of  a disturbing and trouble making pig flying around London. Now this might going to be the scenery of football supporters running and cheering around Battersea? Well, eventuality the people who own billion’s can own any power, including a power station.

On the evening of the FA Cup final against Liverpool (4th of May 2012), Chelsea confirmed the existence of a bid on Battersea. Roman Abramovich’s showed his interest in the decommissioned power station with plans to build his own 60.000 seats stadium. For the symbolic price of £1 and the promise to renovate all the chimneys he might turns this icon of London into his icon of power.

It looks a bit like an attempt of Abramovich to become Britian’s next biggest property owner. Just when the world thought he was already creating the biggest venue (read: his home) ever. An 150 million place, which combines 9 different apartments into one incredibly huge house for the Abromovich family. Abramovich is currently the 68th  richest person in the world, according to the 2012 Forbes list, with an estimated fortune of $12.1 B.

Will Abramovich become the owner of the Battersea Power Station? Besides the fact that there is an helicopter landing strip very close to Battersea, which is very useful for Abramovich (unfortunately his own private Boeing can not land there, which is a bit inconvenient, but his yacht with paparazzi reflecting lasers can be parked outside in the Themes).

There need to be plans made for transporting all the football supporters during the sports events. Is Abramovich really turning The Power Station into a stadium? And if he turns it into a stadium, how are all the supporters  arriving there? There is a lack of infrastructure at the moment, which is common knowledge.

Updates will follow as soon.

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Battersea Power Station for £1

The Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSC) has put in a bid of £1 to buy the Battersea Power Station. If their bid is successful they plan to redevelop the unused site for the local community. Plans include museums, restaurants and music venues.

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Industrial heritage “As important as our country homes and castles”

A new survey from English Heritage has found that listed industrial buildings are at the highest risk of severe neglect. Around 3% of standard grade I and II* listed buildings in England are considered to be at risk, while a staggering 11% of industrial grade I and II* listed buildings are in the same category.

Grade I and II* industrial listed buildings in England cover a variety of structures from across the industrial spectrum including Battersea Power Station.

According the English Heritage the problem is not a lack of appreciation from the public. A poll of public attitudes carried out on their behalf shows that 86% of the public agree that it is important we value and appreciate industrial heritage and 80% think it is just as important as our castles and country houses.

Despite English Heritage’s obvious concerns about the future of listed industrial heritage sites, it seems that they have some problems categorising the status of some of these sites.

Their 2011 Heritage At Risk Register lists both Battersea Power Station and the Victorian Battersea Pumping Station as “Priority D”. This means “Slow decay; solution agreed but not yet implemented”. Which is ambiguously incorrect on both fronts.

Battersea Pumping station:

The report does correctly state that this historic Victorian Pumping station is going to demolished, despite widespread and authoritative opposition, after a planning application was approved by Wandsworth Council in November 2010. So what English Heritage really mean is, it’s going to be knocked down but it hasn’t been done yet. The pump station is crucial, the only reason to demolish it  is it allows the power station owners REO,  to maximise profits. Apparently completely ignoring Malcolm Tucker of the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society  who previously made it clear “that it should be possible to incorporate the conserved building within the scheme.”

Battersea Power Station:

Again the report offers clarity by stating “fresh planning and listed building applications approved 2010 subject to legal agreement for restoration, extension and conversion of Power Station to provide retail, residential flats, business, cultural, hotel and conference facilities.”

There are two problems here: 1, “D” has been the status of the power station for decades now and little has changed. 2, the fact that legal agreement is required means that a solution has not been agreed.

Priority D is therefore the developers ideal status. Using the “big bang theory of redevelopment” implementation of the “solution” can be almost permanently postponed. Rather than phased conservation and restoration the heavily indebted REO insists their preposterous scheme to “save” the power station depends of a new tube line being dug, which of course will never happen.  They claim that their “solution” to restoration depends on the creation of a whole new urban area- a scheme that looked unlikely even in the height of the property boom.

Meanwhile the building falls into decay and eventually will require demolishing for safety reason giving the developer a clear conscience and nice clear piece of land to build on. Never mind that the nation loses one of its most iconic industrial buildings that are ‘as important as our castles and country homes”.

Of course the developers could “moth ball” both buildings until such time that a genuinely appropriate and viable solution comes along, but there is no need to speculate on why they won’t do that.

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London community requests FOI to protect Greenwich Park from ‘pruning’

London local campaign group, NoGOE (No to Greenwich Olympic Equestrian Events), has addressed a Freedom of Information Act request to Greenwich Council with a regard to tree 1253 in Greenwich Park.

 

Tree 1253 Not chopped down- just pruned

 

NoGOE discovered that in spite of London 2012 Organizing Committee (LOCOG) promises being made on not cutting down the trees and returning the park to its current condition after the Games are to be broken. Now, they seek to find out “how and why and by whom, and on whose authority, tree 1253 has been cut down.”

Residents fear Greenwich Park, being the oldest Royal Park, as well as listed Grade 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be “wrecked” after the Olympic Games. This is due to 72 trees planned to be further “pruned” to allow a 11-foot clearance for horses, in addition to other serious damage to the plants in the park.

Initially, the LOCOG planning application for Greenwich Park did not included the tree survey, but NoGOE managed to obtain a tree schedule under FOI from Greenwich Council. It clearly shows a handful of trees located alongside the proposed route of the cross-country course, and these are 1254, 1256 and 279. Some of them are ancient and veterans, as NoGOE points out.

The planning application also shows information about the grassland being re-opened as late as in November 2015, which enhances the conflict between  NoGOE and LOCOG even more.

NoGOE members, and among them the FOI request issuer Rachel Mawhood, believe the Olympic Equestrian events in 2012 should not be held at Greenwich Park, as it is not a suitable site for this mega event.

Will Connell, Performance Director of the British Equestrian Team, said: “LOCOG has no intention of cutting down trees or closing the park for a year, and I think that local residents should be proud that such an exciting Olympic sport will be on their doorstep in 2012.”

LOCOG in its planning application for the venue announced:

The entire park will only be closed for a four week period from 6th July to 3rd August in 2012;
The children’s playground and the majority of the flower garden within the park will remain open throughout this four week period with the exception of cross country day;
There are no planned residential road closures, and no trees will be cut down;
After the Games, the park will be returned to the condition in which it was received.

NoGOE fear they cannot trust LOCOG, as one tree has already been cut down with no prior warning.

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Battersea Power Station: an open letter to the Science Museum

thinks..one day all this will be allowed to rot...

Keith Garner is a Battersea-based architect and member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group who has recently addressed an open letter to the new head of the Science Museum, Ian Blatchford, proposing a collaborative arrangement between private developers and public institutions to secure the future of the Battersea Power Station.

It has been suggested several times that parts of the Station, especially the famous ‘A’ Station Turbine Hall and Control Room, would work well as a museum of industry or science, and this proposal was raised again at a lecture on the future of Battersea Power Station delivered by architecture historian Gavin Stamp recently. After attending the lecture, Keith drafted a letter to Ian Blatchford proposing the idea of a collaborative effort between the Science Museum and developers.

Battersea Power Station’s owners, Treasury Holdings, are currently in financial difficulty because of the Irish banking crisis and it looks likely that they will soon be forced to sell to another private developer, and there’s little to suggest that a new private owner would fare any better at Battersea Power Station than their three predecessors.

A joint venture would not only guarantee public access to the BPS, but also give private developers a greater chance of success in their plans for the site.

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Battersea Power Station history from the 30s to 1983

The Vauxhall Society reprints an extract from  ‘Battersea Power Station – 50 Years of Service – A Short History’ first published by CEGB Public Relations Branch in 1983.

The Vauxhall Society is the civic consultative group covering the London parliamentary constituency of Vauxhall, which extends from north of Waterloo to Brixton, Clapham, and Stockwell and Vauxhall, as well as the neighbouring districts of Southwark and Wandsworth.

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Battersea Power Station- a tragi-comedy of errors

here today...

Battersea Power Station- a tragi-comedy of errors.

by our theatre critic BabyLonDon

Last night’s Wandsworth Borough Council Planning Committee meeting to approve the demolition of the Victorian Battersea Pumping Station and the demolition (and supposed replacement) of the iconic power station chimneys was the best show in town- Dickens in modern dress that occasionally lapsed into panto. The farce played to a packed house – with the corridors full of (vested?) interested parties straining to hear the proceedings over the PA.

The rather predictable plot- a variation on the turkeys voting for Christmas story -had a committee clearly determined to vote in favour spending three hours going through the massive planning application with just one dissenting voice of reason, played by a rather hammy councillor Tony Belton, pointing out the blindingly obvious flaws and unfeasibility of the scheme.

The real drama and humour lay in the fact that the committee seemed oblivious to the subplot- that the developers, REO (Treasury Holdings UK), are massively in “toxic” debt and in effect owned by the Irish tax payers via  NAMA and will do nothing but continue to demolish what little is left on the site and then “flip it”- selling it on as an empty brown field site for river front luxury development.

REO were unlucky that when the music of the property boom stopped they were left without a chair, but lucky enough to have their biggest non-Irish asset located in Wandsworth, infamous for having allowed the power station to fall into its current state of near dilapidation and for waving through truly hideous and desolate riverside developments.

There was something distasteful in the pathos of the affable officer’s naive presentation of the nonsensical scheme as from the public gallery hard nosed and cash hungry developers salivated at the easy meal they were shortly to enjoy.

There were comic moments as the “power dressed” committee members seemed to be made up of people who were in thrall to the promised dream of capitalism but had no clue about business. They dismissed the very real credibility gaps in the developers “vision”, enthusiastically hanging the whole wobbly edifice on the “promise” that these mega debtors (or at least Irish toxic debt vehicle NAMA) would stump up over 200 million pounds for the Northern Line Extension, or as it is known locally the “Ghost train to nowhere”. Even if this phantom train ride were real it would not happen for years even if it all went to plan… it was an evening of “even ifs”.

One comedic highlight was the officer’s report on the stringent “conditions” the council had negotiated with the Developers.

REO could take down the chimneys but must replace within 7 years.

REO could remove the embarrassing sight of the wharf cranes they are letting rot and could “restore” them inside the hulk of the rotting power station.

REO could first develop a slither of land on the north west river front. Happily the piece of land with most instant resale value, being the furthest from the smelly and polluting waste transfer facility on the north east water edge of the site and the cluster of huge gas holders on the south west edge, deemed by the HSE to be enough of a potential danger to society they recommended the scheme was rejected. This danger of an inferno seemed not to trouble the committee who dismissed the HSE’s concerns. One councillor mocked it as health and safety gone mad as residents of the later phases of the development nearer the potential blast would have chosen to buy their luxury flats aware of the risk.

They also swallowed, uncritically, the completely spurious argument for knocking down the grade II listed Victorian pumping station on the grounds it was a “community benefit” in order to “save” the power station apparently achieved by destroying its architectural value by knocking windows all along its sides and turning it into a shopping mall with luxury flats.

All of the responsibilities and commitments of REO were locked into phases of the development projected way into the future. As REO have no real intention, or means, to “deliver” these planning pipe dreams they were in effect getting off Scot free. The only thing the planning committee’s decisions would guarantee were the demolitions.

The press has been full of the glossy artists impressions of this bright new future but actually it is a dark day for most Battersea residents as this scheme will deliver nothing but another decade of planning blight. A bleak future without two of the regions most precious and best loved buildings.

The optimists had to accept that even if the Power Station were to survive this scheme it could not actually be seen from anywhere in the borough once surrounded by the 15+ storey buildings REO planned.

Given the power station is Wandsworth Borough council’s logo it was indeed a turkey landslide vote for every day being christmas.

BabyLonDon’s Final Verdict: Funny but sad. Not an “An absolute triumph”

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