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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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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The new development in Battersea “is not” only for the rich

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The redevelopment of Battersea Power station has started and as we have written many times before, we are very concerned what the impact of the new neighborhood might have on the existing community.

30-40 percent of the flats have been sold to foreign investors, said the CEO of the new Battersea Power Station Development Company, Robert Tincknell to the Evening Standard last week. He did also mentioned that even if they were bought up by foreign investors, most of the investors will probably rent the flats to londoners. Something that would contribute to the vibrant community they hope to build. He also believes that the new development will be good for local business and that they are trying to be a part of the existing community.

The question still remains, would not a new development with expensive flats make the rent for existing houses higher? Tincknell says that he does not want Battersea Power Station to only be a place for the rich, but with the building plans they got, does it really sound like a place that is not only for the rich?

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Is the new Power Station scheme to change people’s quality of life?

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Rob Tincknell was interviewed in The Standard, Hong Kong’s biggest circulation English daily, about the plans for Battersea Power Station earlier this month. The power station was bought by three Malaysian companies, SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employee’s Provident Fund, in June last year. Tincknell said that the Malaysian’s vision for the site is better and different from the previous schemes, since this one is bigger and it is going to influence people’s quality of life.

Tincknell failed to mention that people’s quality of life is not only going to change for the better. Like we have mentioned before, many in the nearby communities are people on low incomes, and with a luxury estate just across the road from their homes the rents will rise and their quality of life will get worse.

Developers who want to attract really wealthy buyers have to build super-size apartment buildings with flats bigger then 6,000 square feet. The new penthouses in Battersea are planned to be 8,000 square feet, a size aimed to appeal more to the rich rather then the members of the Battersea community.

Tincknell also mentioned that no other plans have had a good solution to the public transport, but this scheme is planning to extend the Northern Line with public money, a 1 billion loan from UK government to Transport for London.

Two things are interesting with this statement. First of all, the previous owners of Battersea Power Station, who Tincknell also worked for, were the one’s who planned the extension of the Northern Line. Second, the owners were also suppose to pay for the extension as a contribution towards section 106- planning gain. Somewhere down the line the private-funding of the underground extension has turned in to a public-funding.

In the end Tincknell said that tourists want to come and see things that are authentic, and he means that the Power Station surrounded by ugly new buildings will give “authenticity” to the place. The only question is, will Battersea Power Station survive after its chimneys have been taken down to be rebuild, and how much of its authenticity will it be able to keep?

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Nine Elms Regeneration – involving local residents

The invitation to the information meeting at the R.O.S.E. Community Clubroom states: “It’s clear that the area will be transformed and we want you, as local residents, to be involved in this process.” As for the first part of that sentence, we cannot argue with this. It is clear that the decision have been made, where and by whom is not entirely clear. Maybe it was made by Transport for London, who want to build an extension of the Northern line. Or by the American diplomatic corps, who want to build their embassy in the area. Or maybe by Real Estate Opportunities, the troubled owners of the Battersea Power Station. One thing is clear though, it was not the local residents who made that decision. There were some presentations, a short Q&A and residents were invited to sign up for updates on the regeneration. These updates may concern them, but they certainly don’t involve them in the decision making process.

The event was well attended, with about 40 people filling all the available seating. There were some displays with impressive looking posters illustrating the plans. There were drinks and nibbles. The plans involve 15,000 new homes and 25,000 new jobs. Those numbers are impressive. There are also plans to build one elementary school and one library. 15,000 homes and one school, the numbers don’t exactly seem to add up. Either someone needs to go to school to develop their mathematical skills, or the calculations are correct and the developers aren’t expecting many children to be raised in their new flats. Perhaps these new properties are being built to house so-called DINKS, or Dual-Income-No-Kids for those of you less familiar with yuppy terminology. Walking through the neighbourhood of the R.O.S.E. Community Clubroom with large estates and a wealth of playgrounds, you can see why the DINKS wouldn’t want to live here.

As for the 25,000 new jobs, it is important to remember that there are already 12,000 jobs, mainly in the industrial area along Stewarts Road. In the presentation it was made clear that those industries would have to move. While at the same time vague promises were made to keep the industry in the borough (with no indication as to where it should go instead) and that an effort would be made “to preserve as much as we can”. Later in the meeting, discussing the lengthy period of 15-20 years the project is planned for, one of the reasons given for this extended span of time was the existing leases.

Reading between the lines, this seems to indicate that the local industry will disappear. And we can subtract most of those 12 000 existing jobs from the 25 000 planned ones. Now the two biggest prospective employees will be the American Embassy and the Battersea Power Station. The American Embassy will bring their own employees and looking at the plans for th Battersea Power Station with up-scale office spaces, one cannot help but wonder how many of the industrial workers will find jobs in the planned (and not yet existing) offices.

Now the construction itself will bring some work to the area. The number 40 000 floated through the room for a while, until a local resident pointed out that those 40,000 jobs refer to a period of 20 years in an industry where contracts usually don’t last any longer than 3 years. So this number is misleading, as it doesn’t mean there will be 40,000 jobs at any point in time. Also if you count each contract, one worker will be getting 6-7 3 year contracts. Each contract term is counted as a job, but calculating actuall employment numbers they are more likely to be around 6,000.

Besides the number games there were whole presentations which merely seemed to consist of quoting a number of “documents” and “frameworks”, including the London Plan including “designated opportunity areas”, the “Opportunity Area Planning Framework”, “Local Development Framework, “Site Specific Allocation Document” and many more. Not having read any of those, I ended up more confused than in the beginning with an unsettling feeling of disempowerment: There is no way I will find the time to read all those, even less understand their terminology. But if I don’t, I won’t understand what it is exactly that is being developed and proposed. Referencing this mass of documentation had one effect only: dispiriting an delegitimising any opions or critiques by local residents and raising a windscreen of referential material that is cited as authority. Here the event resembled an excercise in exclusion rather than any real attempts at involving local residents or trying to set up a democratic and accountable process to find a solution that will actually respond to the needs of and benefit the local population.

Thankfully there was some time for questions and they came plentiful. How the project was benefiting local residents, if their homes were due to be displaced was one of them. The councilor had never heard about this before. But as the petition to save Tideway Village states:

Now yet another very special London gem is under threat: Tideway Village and the Nine Elms Pier Boat Community may disappear forever, possibly as early as March 2011. Tucked away next to the Battersea Power station the 30+ houseboats with their inhabitants form a diverse vibrant community framed by old boats, water wildlife and nature, dearly loved and frequently photographed by passers by.

The current plans being submitted for the construction of ‘Tideway Wharf’ by St James (Berkeley Homes) proposes a development that would replace this special corner of London with cloned, soulless structures, erected in pursuit of profit at the expense of beauty and diversity.

You can find out more about Tidway Village on their website, and sign the petition online.

The question about how Climate Change was swiftly answered, stating that the whole project would be build to highest standards. The question whether projects on such a scale can possibly be sustainable, remained unasked.

When Brian Barnes pointed out that he’d been promised work at the Power Station as a young man, and has been through three proposals, and now, after his hair has gone gray, he is still being promised work at the Battersea Power Station – in twenty years time…

The point was raised that the proposal did not mention affordable housing and that it looked like local people were being “re-developed out.” The Save Shaker Aamer Campaign asked that the local council stand up for Battersea resident Shaker Aamer who is still being held in Guantanamo illegally. The question was raised whether it was right to invite the US Embassy into the borough, as long as Shaker Aamer ist still not home.

The organisers had pointed out that the meeting was being recorded, and you could see quite a few staff sitting around the edges and scribbling hastily. They will be able to answer all questions and refute any criticism raised soon, it seemed like an excercise in preparing notes for future public debate, to be prepared for any objections that might come up.

notes: starbucks and other big corp chains coming in is bad for local business as well as atmosphere of area, artifical venues and retail outlets that won’t work, just as unreal and illusionary as any other proposal during the last 20 years,

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