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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Real Estate Opportunities “debt D-day” approaches

The financial credibility of the owners of the Battersea Power Station site, REO (Real Estate Opportunities) faces a strong test on the 31st of August when payments are due to both NAMA – the Irish toxic debt bank – and Lloyds Banking group. REO’s creditors have recently appointed Ernst & Young as insolvency advisers in advance of the 31st August deadline. Further details on the ‘debt D-day’ are available via the  The Telegraph and Co Star Group.

The Battersea site was bought in 2006 by REO, which is in majority owned by Irish group Treasury Holdings. This purchase occurred during the craziest period of the Irish property bubble. We can see remnants of the bubble in the current development proposal for the Power Station site. The plans bear all the hallmarks of the worst in speculative urban development that occurred during the bubble. However London has remained somewhat immune to the property bubble, and developers are happy to continue with business as usual and forget anything ever happened. This ‘developers dementia’ is of course good news for REO’s creditors NAMA who have been actively encouraged by some commentators to keep inflating a London property bubble.

Within all of this financial wheeling and dealing the real question is being ignored. That is not how long REO can sustain its current level of debt, but one of how long more the planning authorities in London will go on supporting the speculative urban development charade that inflates such bubbles.

The Battersea site is to be developed with a FAR (Floor Area Ratio) of roughly 5.0. This density is above average for London and well above an acceptable maximum density for a northern European city. Such densities sacrifice important basic human needs like daylight and turn open spaces and streets into canyon like wind tunnels. The only purpose such densities serve is to maximise short term profits for developers.

London’s planning authorities need to develop new thinking and approaches to the development of such iconic locations. Which have at their heart urban design that pays regard to human scale and the longer term societal, environmental and cultural needs of the city, rather than pandering to the demands of the demented developers.

 

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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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Silwood Video Group Workshops: Update

We had our first workshop with the Silwood Video Group on Tuesday, which allowed us to get a lot of new footage and more location shots to add to our ever-expanding archive. We are looking forward to getting the project up and running, with lots of positive contributions by residents. We are lining up interviews with pensioners and schoolkids alike, trying to get to the root of the changing nature of life on the estate.

Get involved!

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Olympics 2012: Legacy, Land Grabs and Liberties

Olympics 2012: Legacy, Land Grabs and Liberties

Mark Saunders presentation at HafenCity Universität Hamburg department of Urban Design.

Thursday 13 Jan 2011. 7.30

In the Fog of Games the first casualty is the truth.  The Olympics, like other sporting spectaculars, are only brief and transitory television events that disguise and justify Mega projects of vast urban restructuring that permanently distort our cities for the benefit of a few business interests . The common features of these Mega projects are unprecedented land grabs, the peddling of myths of “regeneration”  and the “legacy” benefits for the host community, the sweeping away of democratic structures and planning restraints, the transfer of public money into private hands and “information management” to hid truths and silence critics.

Mark Saunders will be showing some “work in progress” extracts from Spectacle’s film on the London Olympics.

Zeit:
Donnerstag, 13. Januar 2011
19.00 Uhr

Ort:
HafenCity Universität Hamburg
Averhoffstraße 38
Erdgeschoss, Raum 16 b

Eine Veranstaltung im Rahmen der UD-Vortragsreihe “Feste feiern. Kollektivierungen urbaner Praxis”

For more details and maps

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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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For more history of the power station click here
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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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Artists’ Impressions Of Battersea Are For Illustration Purposes Only

BPS Battersea Power Station

The demolition plans proposed at last night’s meeting for the future of the grounds of Battersea Power Station grounds are merely artistic impressions in soft focus and not what locals and Londoners should expect to receive.

Most of the things promised are so far in the future that their coming to fruition is highly unlikely – the only concrete actions that were clearly agreed to with immediate effect were the removal of the chimneys and the knocking down of the Pumping Station.

Don’t hold your breath for keys to a luxury flat here just yet.

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