Battersea Power Station Pop-Up Park ‘pops off’

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Last May, the Battersea Power Station developers opened what they announced as a Pop-Up Park, that would receive visitors from all over the world every weekend and host several events. The so called public park, that was even added to Google Maps, ( how did that happen?) soon ‘popped off’ and in late September closed its doors.

The Power Station is one of the few obstacles preventing walkers from strolling along the south side of the Thames Path. For years this path has been blocked– a fading sign claimed it was a “construction site” even though really it was a very agreeable and exclusive river front office for construction company Berkeley Homes. The Berkeley Group (Berkeley, St James, St George, St Edward ) are responsible for ”delivering” many of the ugly and soulless developments despoiling the south bank.

IMG_9990In a new sign hanging on the now closed door, the developers claim the reason why they are shutting access to the park is related to the beginning of restoration works of the Power Station. In fact phase 1, which has barely started, is the building of monstrous flats in the slither of land along the rail track, forever obscuring the wonderful views from the west. “Restoration” (or desecration depending on your view of art deco architecture) of the power station is phase 2.

The sign also states that they have had “a great time hosting over 55,000 guests” in the pop up park. Are they are including in that number the more than 30,000 people that visited the building during the London Open House weekend? If so the pop up park was already closed then. Or do they count those attending the numerous events they have hosted, regardless of the alleged danger of the chimneys falling, on the south side of the site?

Finally it suggests you write to zkelly@bpsdc.co.uk if you would like to discuss putting on an event- It would seem danger from the chimneys only affects the non-paying public but not private, paying guests.

Perhaps “PR Park” would be a more appropriate name than “pop-up Park”.

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Battersea Power Station -masters of spin

The new owners of Battersea Power Station may not know much about property development, but they do have excellent PR. The hugely successful Open House London day attracted tens of thousands of visitors who queued for hours to catch a brief glimpse of this much loved building.

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However, in PR terms, it was a bit of an own goal. As only a few days later, the World Monuments Fund listed Battersea Power Station as an endangered world heritage site. See our blog on this.

This very significant listing was hardly commented on in the media. Despite its big PR it was’nt even mentioned in the very slick newsletter of the owners. The inclusion was only visible in some mainstream media:

”Battersea Power Station ‘at risk’ says the heading of an article in the Times. And according to the the Express:

”The Grade II listed London landmark is among 67 heritage

sites that are at risk from natural, economic, social and political forces according to The World Monuments Fund (WMF). The decommissioned coal-fired power station was joined on the list by the beautiful Italian city of Venice and the little known Hong Kong village of Pokfulam.”

The Local Guardian on the inclusion:

”WMF have said they aim to keep a spotlight on the current redevelopment plans for the station, particularly focusing on the re-building of it’s four chimneys.”

Noticeably, they claim it to be one of the best-loved landmarks of the capital.

The Evening standard did not mention this embarassing listing either. Since they recently made Battersea Power Station a front cover image as part of their association with “The Power 1000 – London’s most Influential People” critical reporting of Battersea Power Station from the Standard, which was always weak, has been significantly lacking.

See our full article about the owners’ pro – active approach to media management.

Interestingly, the owners were unable to provide visitors with updated information about the new phasing of the demolishing of the chimneys. This was left to a small group of local volunteers of the Battersea Power Station Community Group.

Watch our video about the demonstration against these plans during London open house.

The owners have also not mentioned their plans to make a bio fuel power station. If you think bio fuels sounds good, look at this chart. And then there’s the PR problem with main partner Sime Darby’s significant role in deforestation and the extinction of the Orang u Tang.

Despite these obstacles, they are still winning the PR – war as many people believe they are going to start to renovate the Power Station “at last”. However, phase 1 is only building ugly greedy soulless flats for investors that will block most of the views. And phase 2 involves demolishing the chimneys and, they claim, replacing them with replicas.

The current agreement is that they have permission to take down one, and that is including the art deco brickwork on the top. They will rebuild the first one to 25 meters, which is about halfway. When they have reached that point, they can take the other three chimneys down and then they will continue rebuilding the first.
So it’s essentially one plus three. Now at some point down that route, if there’s a default, the developer either refuses, or claim they ‘cannot put them back up’ or they run out of money, the chimneys, like the roof, will not be put back. The cost of putting back three and a half chimneys is massive- far more than the “bond” being asked.

BPSsavethechimneys

They are also not keen to draw attention to their recent request to dismantle the two listed cranes that are disgracefully being allowed to rust away, in order to provide a jetty for taking underground extension tunnel soil out via the river. They have a very long water front it is typical that they should insist it can only work by demolishing the cranes.

To us and any one interested, except English Heritage and Wandsworth council who collude in the hidden master plan, the owners are pursuing a policy of demolition by stealth.

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BP’s Unsustainable Olympic Sponsorship

The Counter Olympics Network (CON) held a conference on the 14th April at the Bishopsgate Institute where they discussed the problems that the 2012 Olympics has caused and planned points of action for the coming months to tackle such issues.

They were joined by international speakers Derrick Evans from the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health, Bryan Parras from the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s) and Clayton Thomas Muller from the Indigenous Environmental Network. Together they spoke about how their projects have been affected by previous Olympics. More specifically on the issues of corporate sponsoring, pollution, gentrification and surveillance that the Olympic Games bring to cities.

Derrick Evans

 Derrick Evans Representing the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health

BP is one of the sponsors for the London 2012 Olympics, as the ‘Official Oil and Gas Partner’ as well as sponsoring the USA Olympics Team. The corporate sponsorship of the Games by BP has angered campaigners who want to publicise the adverse effects BP contributed to the natural environment. Derrick Evans is one such campaigner who argues that BP’s involvement with the Olympics is an attempt to divert attention from its “incomparable contributions to unsustainability globally”.

He gives the example of the Deepwater Horizon Spill when BP discharged two hundred million gallons of crude oil into the gulf of Mexico in 2010 and then “applied nearly two million gallons of chemicals dispersant of Correxics not clean up, but to hide because it has the effect of breaking the oil up.” This has resulted in oil particles being consumed by the smallest life forms in the gulf and therefore infiltrating the whole food chain. Two years on the oil is still present and washes ashore in the Northern Gulf.

This has resulted in economic damage and health problems for the local people. In particular, the local fishing communities have been badly affected as two of their fishing seasons have been completely destroyed and very few of them have “received anything near the level, if anything at all, the level of compensation to compensate them for the lost income and the lost investment in their one asset, which is their boat, and their nets; and the things that they pour all their money into, to get ready for the fishing season.”

The health of the local population has deteriorated considerably since the oil spills. “Thousands, tens of thousands children and adults are exhibiting in large scale, physical symptoms: respiratory issues, skin issues, loss of short-term memory, a lot of the same issues, they don’t know each other.” And these people have not received any compensation, “they haven’t received a dime.” What is more worrying is that not a single cent of BP’s twenty billion dollar Gulf Coast Trust Fund has “pay for a single medical bill for a single person”.

The aim of the Gulf Coast Fund is to “seeks to assist and renew and empower the most vulnerable of the communities and ecosystems on the gulf coast.” The very same ones that have been affected by the BP Oil Spills.

Therefore, the idea that BP being a major sustainability sponsor is ridiculous as the environmental and human damage that BP has caused through oil spills undermines its attempts to be a “sustainabilty sponsor” of the Olympics. “BP has essentially got away with murder in the country and in a part of the country where the state officials and the government agencies that defer to them are like useless law enforcement.” Derrick Evans concludes to say that: “I want to encourage to those of you who want to shed the truth and light on this apparently multi faceted fiasco.”

Bryan Parras

 Bryan Parras Representing the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s)

Bryan Parras is a campaigner from Houston, Texas who is also campaigning against BP and their involvement with the Olympics. He described BP as a “repeat offender” as they repeatedly have accidents and problems. Five years before the Deepwater Horizon Accident BP had an explosion where 15 workers were killed. BP are “constantly cutting corners and cutting back on their safety measures.” But at the same time they are spending huge amounts of money by sponsoring the Olympics.

Bryan Parras sees the “Olympics as just another one of those opportunistic moments where capitalism sort of comes in and reigns its terror on folks.” It’s like watching little league baseball in the stadiums, where “everyone is watching their children and their friends play ball” while their cars get broken into all the time. This seems to happen wherever the Olympics go, everyone is so “focused on where the lights are all shining that we are not seeing what’s happening” to the local communities.

Clayton Thomas Muller

 Clayton Thomas Muller Representing the Indigenous Environmental Network

Clayton Thomas Muller is an activist for indigenous rights and environmental justice and lead campaigner of the Tar Sands campaign. The Indigenous Environmental Network comprises of indigenous people in the United States who have been affected by unsustainable development. BP’s involvement in the exploitation of the Tar Sands on the East coast of Canada has angered both campaigners and local indigenous communities as the extraction industry is unsustainable, causes irreversible damage to the environment and illegally encroaches on disputed indigenous lands.

It is important to understand that for us BP using the Olympics spectacle, the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet. We all know, for those of us who have done the history of the Olympics, that the Olympics is nothing more than a mechanism for the neoliberal capitalist agenda that is essentially a real estate operation to utilize and justify the expropriation of vulnerable communities.”

Vancouver Protests Image by (c) Jason Levis

In Vancouver, the Coalition Olympics Resistance Network or ORN organised and challenged corporate sponsors of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. One campaign, called ‘No Olympics on Stolen Native Lands’ brought together different groups who were fighting for Native rights and sovereignty platforms in opposition to the Olympics. The Olympics caused the gentrification in downtown Vancouver where the local communities have been pushed out to make way for villages for the athletes and tourists. This gentrification mostly affected disadvantaged groups: low income, indigenous urban-based people.

As well as the gentrification of downtown Vancouver the Olympics had caused the destruction and desecration of sensitive ecological regions in and around Vancouver. In order to build the training facilities Eagleridge Bluff, a bald Eagle nesting site and a site that is sacred to the local tribal people. One Elder of the local tribe, Harriet Nahanee organised a campaign to protect Eagle Bluff by creating a blockade to stop machines from coming in. Elder Harriet Nahanee was arrested and contracted Pneumonia in prison and died. “So she died for Olympic resistance, standing up for her rights.”

The Olympics has also caused the increased surveillance in Vancouver. Vancouver is now the second most videotaped city on the planet next to London. Personal privacy has been negotiated as the CCTV cameras are still there. “And so what the Olympics really brought in was a new regime of both militarization and criminalization of the poor, gentrification of the most vulnerable communities, the destruction of ecologically sensitive sites [and] sacred sites to local indigenous people.”

Campaigners are therefore concerned with how the Olympics “created division that used poverty and alleviation as a way to divide different social movements that were converging onto the Olympics.” Clayton Thomas Muller concludes to say that it is absurd that BP is a sustainability partner of the Olympics, “it is nothing more than greenwashing of their horrific human rights abuses and crimes of ecocide against the sacredness of the earth”.

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Silwood Soil Contamination: Higgins’ response

Once they were gardens

Based on residents’ concerns about the mysterious and unspecified “soil contamination” of the back gardens of dwellings in phase 3A of the Silwood estate we put together our own “Frequently asked Questions” and put them to Higgins, the contractor:

9th July 2010

Re: Removal of topsoil on Silwood Estate SE16

Given the confusion among residents over this issue, we are contacting you formally to ask several questions about the topsoil, the contamination, and the ongoing digging works. Our questions are:

From where was the topsoil currently being removed brought?

Have soil tests been conducted on the contaminated soil, and if so, what did the results of these tests reveal?

What are the health consequences related to this soil contamination?

How is any contamination thought to have arisen?

For how long has Higgins Construction known about any contamination present in the topsoil?

Will any contamination have affected the fruit and vegetables grown in some residents’ gardens in such a way as might adversely affect the health of anyone who might eat them?

On what basis was the £250 compensation for each affected garden calculated?
How long will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) take?

How much will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) cost?

In addition, we were informed during a conversation on Silwood Estate with a Higgins Construction employee that some paperwork related to the contaminated topsoil had been lost. We would therefore also like to know:

Of what nature was this lost paperwork?

How was this paperwork lost?

If this lost paperwork was in connection with the contamination of the topsoil, why is the issue only being addressed now, several years after the topsoil was bought and laid in residents’ gardens?

As I am sure you will agree, it is manifestly in the public interest to have these question answered, since any environmental contamination constitutes a matter of public health and safety.

At first there was  silence, we sent the letter again and then we got a phone call from Keith Briggs Director for Preconstruction at Higgins Construction PLC. He wanted to know if we were an “elected representative body ” because if the Silwood Video Group were not elected Higgins did not need to answer our questions. I asked him to put his response in writing, here is an edited version below:

15th July

our Ref:C2292/KB/as

Dear Sirs,

[…] As we established in our [phone] discussion your organisation is not an elected representative body to speak on behalf of the residents […]
It is not appropriate for Higgins Construction PLC to enter into discussion with any party not forming part of our contractual obligation.

In other words Higgins was refusing to answer the questions, many of which only they could answer, on the spurious grounds that only an elected body was entitled to ask questions.

Dear Keith,

Thank you for your reply.I understand that Higgins are refusing to answer our legitimate questions regarding the soil contamination at the Silwood. In a democracy residents do not need to ask questions via an elected body. Indeed there is no such elected body on the estate. To use this as grounds for refusing to answer legitimate questions goes against accepted notions of freedom of speech and accountability.

I would like to draw your attention to your own website:

Corporate Social Responsibility

When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Higgins believes in going beyond the minimum requirements. [….] we have developed a CSR policy that’s based on 6 core principles:

1 Environment – taking responsibility for the mark we make on the environment

If Keith had not been so keen to jump on the fact that the Silwood Video Group was not an elected representative body I could have told him that almost uniquely I  was in fact democratically elected by resident members as  Chair of the SVG. But he thought he had his excuse to ignore us and got off the phone in haste.

As Higgins suggested we did write to the two Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) London and Quadrant and Presentation (now part of Notting Hill Housing Association ). We await their reply…

Those few residents who have now had their gardens put back as they were have received their compensation cheques for £250, interestingly not from  the RSLs but from Higgins.

Meanwhile residents sweat it out (indoors) worrying about their health.

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BLACK HELICOPTERS OVER BATTERSEA POWER STATION

REO, current owners of Battersea Power Station, like all previous owners, have been reluctant to allow any local community use of the site. However they have clearly made parts of the site available to some hand picked users, such as private helicopter operators.

Private helicopter taking off from Battersea Power Station

Private helicopter taking off from Battersea Power Station

So while the principle of allowing use of the site is established there is no transparent decision making process for allowing community or public use of the site – it seems to be at the whim and gift of REO’s private patronage.

There does not seem to have been any consultation on the noisy informal heliport.  It would also appear that the helicopter is flying outside the compulsory Helicopter flight route over the Thames. If it is a single engined helicopter it should only be flying over the Thames in the London Control Zone. Helicopters taking off from Battersea Power Station fly south inland flying over residential areas.

Helicopter landing at Battersea Power Station

Helicopter landing at Battersea Power Station

If you are concerned about noise from helicopters you might be interested to read  In a Spin- A review of Helicopter Noise by London Assembly Environment Committee

Visit Spectacle’s on-going Battersea Power Station Project

Watch a video trailer here: Battersea Power Station – The Story So Far

Subscribe to our newsletter mailing list, visit our contact page to subscribe

If you live in the neighbourhood and would like to get involved, contact us here putting Battersea Power Station in your message.

Click here to view more Battersea Power Station links

Spectacle Home Page

If you would like to object to the planning applications for Battersea Power Station you have until January 31st 2010 click here for more details.

For more information about Spectacle’s Battersea Power Station project including video interviews.

To read more blogs about Battersea Power Station

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