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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Battersea Power Station added to World Monuments Watch 2014

Finally somebody else noticed the endangered condition of Battersea Power Station.

And it’s even better than just noticing it, the Battersea Power Station will be added to the World Monuments Fund’s list of cultural heritage in danger for 2014.
The Power Station was already listed on the 2004 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. So the inclusion also marks the 10th anniversary since the building was first included.

BPSderelict01

Hopefully this happening will draw attention to the continuing failure of a succession of private owners – mostly foreign based – together with Wandsworth Council and English Heritage, to see that the building is properly looked after and given appropriate new lease of life. We also hope that inclusion in the World Monuments Watch 2014 will help to bring about a new and better approach to the preservation of this important building.

Ten years ago, we were told by then owner Parkview that inclusion in the World Monuments Watch was unnecessary and they said: ”Plans for the restoration of this landmark are already well underway” (AJ 02.10.03).   But since 2004 there has been no progress at Battersea Power Station, which has been allowed to deteriorate further.

Parkview sold to Irish developers Treasury Holdings in 2006 which also made no progress and went bankrupt in 2012.  The current owners – a Malaysian consortium – propose to surround Battersea Power Station with blocks of flats up to 18 storeys high, obscuring the famous London landmark from most directions.

The consortium justify the excessive height of the towers by saying this is necessary to fund the restoration of the grade II* listed building.

We are calling for a different approach with ownership of Battersea Power Station transferred to a trust to be repaired using funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources.  (There are precedents for this: the former Bankside Power Station became Tate Modern with £50m of lottery money and £60m of private money.)

The consortium can develop the flat land at the back (the old South Lambeth Goods Yard site) and develop the unlisted parts of Battersea Power Station itself on a leasehold basis.  But key views of Battersea Power Station must be preserved and there should be free public access to the listed interiors.

The consortium also proposes to carry out Parkview’s plan to demolish the chimneys. This despite an authoritative engineering report jointly commissioned by the Twentieth Century Society, World Monuments Fund and ourselves in 2005 that showed that the case for demolition is not proved.  We fear that the consortium will take the chimneys down and will then invent a reason not to put them back up. They must be stopped.

BPSderelict02

38,000 people visited Battersea Power Station during London Open House, far more than any other building taking part. It is bizarre and anomalous that this hugely popular building has not benefited from Heritage Lottery Fund largesse since the lottery was established in 1995.   We call on English Heritage to take the lead in rectifying this situation.

Battersea Power Station has been described as “… one of the supreme monuments of twentieth century Britain”.  Foreign speculators can no longer be trusted with this important building which must be repatriated forthwith and repaired with public money.

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Battersea Power Station Community Group has been campaigning since 1983 to save the listed building. To make a donation click here.

The Battersea Files by Eclipse films – Kevin Murphy  001 520 836 8792

Battersea Power Station Open House, a video by Spectacle.

Further Contact:

Brian Barnes MBE 020 7627 5821 / 07748 554866
Keith Garner 020 7585 0421 / 07876 163638
Ernest Rodker 020 8672 9698
Angela Parkinson 07931 814607
Kett Murphy (USA) 00 1 312 320 2471

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Battersea Buddleia Returns

A picture of what is believed to be Buddleia growing beneath Battersea Power Station’s south east chimney taken earlier this month shows the continued degradation of the grade 2 listed building. English Heritage seem to be blasé about the upkeep of the iconic building, having allowed such a large plant to take hold amongst the scaffolding.

Photo courtesy of Keith Garner

Sime Darby, the Malaysian Company who bought the aging building earlier this year, finalised the contract last night. With their plans to regenerate the power station set to start within months.

Despite Sime Darby’s history of global deforestation ( see Friends of the Earth report)  in relation to their Palm Oil business, they have had put little effort into the removal of this particular plant.

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, leader of the consortium, has claimed that the regeneration will produce up to 26,000 jobs. But how long will these jobs remain, and at what expense to the power station itself will this take over cause?

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin claims they will build “a vibrant, accessible and functional town centre for Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea area”. A town centre completely privately owned.

We aim to interview English Heritage about Battersea Power Station, do you have any questions you want posing to them?

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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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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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Battersea Power Station chimneys will fall in high wind, claim REO

Visit Battersea Power Station for some top notch entertainment… except on a windy day, when you’ll get a little more than you bargained for…

http://youtu.be/JWjaLR0v7Ss

Battersea Power Station’s impressive resume as an event venue has spanned across all walks of entertainment categories, from live music concerts to Hollywood movie sets. However,  Battersea’s owners, Real Estate Opportunities (REO),  have recently announced that the station’s four chimneys are dangerously close to toppling and need demolishing.

But if you think that this health and safety nightmare is going to prevent REO and Wandsworth Borough Council from inviting thousands of members of the public into the Grade II* listed building, think again. The next few months entertainment seems bigger than ever.

For instance, this October the Relentless Freeze Festival- the UK’s only snow, ski and music festival- returns to Battersea Power Station.
Here, athletes across skiing and snowboarding will compete on a 32 metres high jump constructed within the power station, complete with 500 tonnes of real snow. As competitors pound the slopes, 4 live stages will host a handful of loud music acts to an audience of up to 40,000.

The station has also been used for the Red Bull X-Fighter season, the world’s biggest Freestyle motocross championships. This November, X-Fighter is likely to attract 30,000 adrenaline junkies wishing to witness the high-octane showdown.

But it was only last Saturday that Richard Barrett, one of the co-founders of Treasury Holdings (which has a majority stake in REO), spoke to Reuters about their chimney conundrum:

“One day (if) there is a high wind there one of them is going to come down so it’s better off you take them down and put them back up so that can’t happen”

“All four of them will have to be taken down and rebuilt,” Barrett said in the interview on the sidelines of an economic forum in Dublin, “They are basically un-reinforced concrete.”

Since 2010, REO has spent nearly half a million pounds surveying and trial-repairing the four chimneys, with the rather predictable conclusion from their surveyors being that they are in “worryingly poor condition”.

Campaigners against REO’s proposals claim that plans to demolish and rebuild the chimneys- at a cost of £12m- may be the beginning of plans to eventually destroy the entire building.

A report opposing REO’s claim, collaborated in 2005 by the World Monument Fund, the Twentieth Century Society and the Battersea Power Station Company, states that there is no evidence to suggest the chimneys are structurally unsound, and that the “reinforced concrete structures” (that’s right Barrett, reinforced) are far from the end of their design life.

Brian Barnes, founder of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, said:
“There is no reason for the chimneys to be destroyed – their condition has been exaggerated.”

Actions often speak louder than words; Wandsworth Borough Council would not allow thousands of people to attend numerous sporting, music and fashion events if they thought REO’s claims were even vaguely true. Unless they plan to hand out hard hats at the beginning of every gig, of course.

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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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Chimney stacks of Money

Battersea Power Station owners Treasury Holdings/REO have been arguing the chimneys are unsafe and need to be demolished and rebuilt, dismissing an alternative report by a team of three companies of concrete experts brought together by the World Monuments Fund & Twentieth Century Society that revealed there is no sign of structural distress in the chimneys and that the chimneys can be repaired for half the cost of demolition and rebuilding.

Given the abysmal history of the Power Station’s owners’ reluctance to do anything but the absolute minimum of repairs critics are doubtful they would ever replace the chimneys once demolished- leaving a featureless pile of bricks and little to protect. No doubt, like with the roof, promises will be made to replace the chimneys, but various unavoidable economic or unforeseen technical problems will be cited as external reasons not to replace them. By getting planning permission from Wandsworth Borough Council to take down the chimneys Parkview, the previous owners, greatly added to the resale value of the site when they flipped it. It is a well known property developers’ trick when faced with a listed building to destroy or degrade the key feature that makes a building worth saving e.g. the facade of the beautiful Firestone Building was bulldozed leaving nothing worth protecting.

Bulldozers outpace the Heritage bureaucrats

IN MEMORIAM THE ELEPHANT AND CASTLE DESTROYED BY PEEL HOLDINGS PLC

The “unsafe” nature of the chimneys is also used as an excuse to not open up the river front land for public use.  During the rare times the Power Station is open to the public the whole site is a hard hat area and the roofless interior space between the chimneys completely out of bounds for safety reasons. Interestingly when cash is on the table this same space can accommodate a giant marquee for public events.

Stage design mock-up

Marquee in between "unsafe" chimneys.

Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings, expressed our concerns exactly when he told Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor for the Evening Standard  04.06.09
Unveiled: the ‘last chance’ for Battersea Power Station

[Tincknell].. hopes the chimneys, thought to have been beyond repair, may be saved. The previous plan saw them being replaced by replicas. He said: “If this scheme does not make it, there is no power station. If you look back in history there has been disaster after disaster, rubbish scheme after rubbish scheme. We have designed, consulted and are about to put in a planning application. The project is in the hands of developers who know what they are doing.”

That’s what we are worried about.

——————————————————————————————————————————

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

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