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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Profit, profit, profit! Where do they mention heritage, heritage, heritage?”

Disgruntled Twitter groups such as SAVEThe4Chimneys!, in support of preserving Battersea’s iconic Power Station, are campaigning online against plans to knock down and ‘replace’ the Power Station chimneys.

A Malaysian firm, Sime Darby – responsible for the deforestation of the Orangutan habitat for palm oil – was one of the organisations that bought the 39-acre south-west London site in July for £400m; they are now putting forward plans to destroy these British historical icons. Read more

In November 2008, Red Apes Org, a respected group that campaigns to protect  the orangutans of Malaysia described Ahmad Zubir Murshid as ‘evil’. The group says that oil palm cultivation is a grave threat to the survival of orangutans and that Sime Darby is a part of the problem. Read more

Pink Floyd’s next album cover perhaps?

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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: Out of the frying pan into the fire

The horror story continues…

Nightmare on Nine Elm Street

The abysmal Vinoly plans for Battersea Power Station that we had all hoped were finally dead and buried with the collapse of previous owners REO has come back to haunt all who care about the beautiful building and the quality of life for all those living in its shadow and the surrounding area.

Just when you thought it was safe Architect Viñoly has been hired as “creative brain” behind developer Mike Hussey’s plan for a new stadium for Chelsea football club. AAAHHHHHHGGGGG……

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REO collapses into administration

Real Estate Opportunities has been put into administration by a UK judge after its owners failed to repay debts of £501m owed to Lloyds Banking Group and Ireland’s National Management Asset Agency (NAMA).

Administrators Ernst & Young have taken control of the Grade II listed red-brick building and will now either sell the site or the debt to recover the amount owed. The creditors initially called in the loans on 29 November and REO was inviting offers for its controlling stake in the site soon after.

Lloyds told the Guardian: “From the outset we have been determined to secure a buyer who will kickstart the regeneration of Battersea Power Station and we have done everything possible to give the owners both the time and financial support to achieve this.”


“However, after several months of discussions and still no acceptable offers on the table, administration is the only means we have to ensure that a sales process is put back on track. Without a financially stable owner, the site’s future remains unclear and that’s a situation we want to avoid.”

Keith Garner of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, which opposed the Irish company’s plans, called for the power station to be returned to the public sector, with repairs to be funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The group said on its blog: “For the Battersea Power Station Community Group it is just another ‘new beginning’ as the fourth developer limps off stage to boos and jeers.”

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REO is falling to pieces – literally

“If there is a high wind one of the chimneys on the power station is  going to come down, so it’s better if you take them down and put them back up so that can’t happen. They’re basically un-reinforced concrete.”
Richard Barret, co-founder of Treasury Holdings, on the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, October 2011

And just a few months later their fence around the power station was blown over by a strong gust of wind. All four chimneys are still standing strong proving once again that Real Estate Opportunities‘ threats, promises and bank accounts are nothing but empty.


This picture was sent to us by Brian Barnes, founder of the Battersea Power Station Comunity Group.

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The loss of a British Institution looms

An important symbol of South London and a key feature of the city’s skyline, the Battersea Power Station, has been left to decay for more than twenty years. Created by Gilbert Scott in 1935, the building has slowly rotted away after both station’s A and B were  decommissioned in 1975 and 1983 respectively. The much-loved monument is listed on the English Heritage’s “Buildings at Risk” register.

For full article please click here.

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