A screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo” at the European Parliament in Brussels- January 24


On Tuesday January 24, at 7 pm, there will be a special screening of the acclaimed documentary film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at the European Parliament in Brussels. The screening will take place in the main European Parliament building, the Altiero Spinelli Building, Rue Wiertz, in Room ASP – 3G2, on the 3rd floor, and Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner, and the director of the NGO Cageprisoners, will be joining Andy Worthington and Polly Nash for the screening, and for the Q&A session afterwards.

 

The screening has been arranged by Jean Lambert (UK Green MEP), with the support of Sarah Ludford (UK Liberal Democrat MEP) and Ana Gomes (Portuguese Socialist MEP), and the purpose of the screening is to raise awareness of the continued existence of Guantánamo, and its mockery of universal notions of fairness and justice, ten years after the prison opened, on January 11, 2002. Given President Obama’s very public failure to close the prison as promised, it is essential that other countries step forward to take cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated, and one of the main purposes of the screening is to encourage EU countries to re-engage with the process of resettling prisoners that was so successful in 2009 and 2010.

The screening is free, but anyone who wishes to attend needs to contact Rachel Sheppard, the Parliamentary Assistant to Jean Lambert MEP:  jean.lambert@europarl.europa.eu

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

If those wishing to attend do not already have an access badge for the European Parliament, they need to provide their full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number or ID card and number and also specify the type of document (passport, ID card) so that access badges can be arranged. Without an access badge, those wishing to attend the screening will not be allowed.

Moazzam Begg and Andy Worthington will be available to talk to the press along with Jean Lambert MP, Sarah Ludford MEP and Ana Gomes MEP they are hoping to have the opportunity to discuss the need for European countries to revisit the generosity shown in 2009 and 2010, when many offered new homes to cleared Guantánamo prisoners who could not be safely repatriated.

171 prisoners are still held in Guantánamo, and 89 of these have been cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force. 58 of these men are Yemenis, whose release is being prevented by President Obama, and by Congress, but others remain in need of new homes, and it is only the absence of offers from, for example, countries in Europe, that is preventing them from finally being freed.

As Guantánamo recently marked the 10th anniversary of its opening, with no sign of when, if ever it will close, given Congressional opposition, and the President’s refusal, or inability to assert his authority, it would be a powerful humanitarian gesture if European countries once more agreed to take cleared prisoners, to help to close this shameful icon of the Bush administration’s misguided “war on terror.”

 

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Battersea Power Station: a new home for Chelsea FC?

Roman Abramovich is looking to relocate Chelsea FC from Stamford Bridge to the disused Battersea Power Station (BPS). The current site only has capacity for 41,800 spectators and hence it is unable to host an anticipated 60,000. Therefore the Russian oligarch has recently injected a huge sum of money into researching alternative venues.

Apart from BPS, Earls Court & Olympia, White City and Imperial Wharf are all potential sites currently under consideration. However, BPS seems to be most sensible choice due to its convenient size and availability, The Guardian writes.

The final “yes” or “no” is not only up to the Russian as once again Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO) are exercising their contractual rights. 12,000 shareholders are legally entitled to the name Chelsea Football Club and if it moves elsewhere, Abramovich needs the CPO’s permission to use this well-known trade name. In order to get them on his side, the oligarch made an offer to CPO on Tuesday promising to give perks of priority rights to purchase season tickets and a roll of honor at the new stadium.

It might be worth mentioning that the US Embassy’s future offices could be right next to Chelsea FC’s new stadium in Battersea and one may wonder if anyone asked the American diplomats for their opinion on rubbing shoulders with football fans…

 

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Guantánamo – 10 years on

The London Guantánamo Campaign is marking the illegal detention centre’s first 10 years’ existence with a series of actions in January 2012.

Including a candlelight vigil outside the US embassy in London on 12th January, these actions have been designed to highlight a decade where over 800 prisoners were detained, most of them without charge or trial and subjected to torture and abuse.

The US Embassy can be found on Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE (nearest underground: Bond Street/ Marble.)

The LGC has also launched an e-petition which will be forwarded to the US ambassador to the UK, Louis Susman, on 11th January 2012 calling on the US government to repatriate UK prisoners Shaker Aamer and Ahmed Belbacha.

Click here to add your name to the e-petition.

Anyone wishing to get involved or obtain further information in any of the LGC’s planned events can email london.gtmo@gmail.com

Further details on the LGC can be found here

 

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What’s happening at Nine Elms?

Battersea Power Station view from south

Two chances to hear about Nine Elms redevelopment, including Battersea Power Station and the US Embassy. Nine Elms is central London’s biggest regeneration opportunity. The area covers more than 450 acres of land along the south bank of The Thames – the vast majority of which is gearing up for major redevelopment.

Tues 27/7/2010 @ 7.30pm
ROSE Clubroom, Ascalon St SW8
Ascalon St is between
Thessaly Rd and Stewarts Road on Savona Estate access by car is from Wandsworth Road

link to a MAP and you can register your attendance for this meeting

Weds 28th July 2010 @ 7.30
All Saints Church, Prince of Wales Drive SW11.

Link to register attendance for this meeting and Map

Map All Saints Church is near Queenstown Roundabout

Wandsworth Economic Development Office have arranged these meetings chaired by Cllr Govindia and Cllr Lister.

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Storms brewing over REO personnel?

You’d think that with debts up to their eyeballs, and Wandsworth Borough Council’s decision on planning permission still in the balance, the owners of Battersea Power Station would have enough to worry about.

But now new allegations have arisen in the Irish media about certain figures involved in REO, the property firm that owns the site.

The Irish Independent has reported that Willie McAteer, formerly finance director of Anglo Irish Bank, which loaned money to REO, also owns a stake in the company.

McAteer was also arrested and questioned by the Irish fraud squad in March 2010 following his resignation from the board of bailed out bank Anglo Irish in 2009.

Meanwhile accusations of irresponsible behaviour are in the air directed at Johnny Ronan, one of the owners of Treasury Holdings, REO’s largest stakeholder, with an opinion piece in the same newspaper accusing him of reckless spending. Mr Ronan’s children’s ‘lavish birthday parties…costing hundreds of thousands of euro’ come under fire.

This only adds to speculation on the propriety of his behaviour – in March the Irish Times reported that he was ‘standing down’ from his position for a few months, following embarrassing revelations about his love life.

It seems Mr Ronan had been embroiled with arguments with a former girlfriend after being found taking extended lunches and private jet trips to Morocco with a former Miss World.

Not responsible behaviour, some might say, for a man whose company has debts funded by the Irish taxpayer to the tune of more than a billion euro.

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How much is Battersea Power Station worth?

Detail of a slide from REO's presentation to the Battersea Power Station Community Group

Even if you take the question in its strict financial sense, it’s not as simple as you might think.

Property consultants King Sturge valued the site at £388m in February of this year. But read the small print and you see that this value depends on some factors which are still in flux: the obtaining of planning permission, the extension of the Northern line to Battersea, and the availability of funding for REO’s huge debts.

To take the first issue of planning permission, that’s a decision that’s going to be made by Wandsworth Borough Council later this summer.

And it might not be as cut and dried at the developers hope: several groups are opposing the plans, including the Kew Bridge Engines Trust, 20th Century Society, Battersea Society, SAVE, and the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society. The Victorian Society have also made a formal written objection and recorded an interview with Spectacle on their attitude towards the developers’ plans.

Even supposing the planning proposal is given the go-ahead, it’s unclear how valuable the site will be, given REO’s reluctance to say what proportion of the site will be made up of affordable housing.

Even now, when the site has none of the “essential” planning permission in place, the valuation of £388m suggests a value-per-acre of £10m. A little high, perhaps, given that Capital & Counties exhibition centre in Earls Court, which already generates income and has ready transport links, is valued at £6m per acre.

This second point of transport links, and the extension of the Northern line to Battersea, is also up for discussion.

No public money is being put towards it from either the mayor’s office or the Department of Transport, so it looks like it would have to be privately funded. The REO’s estimated cost at the moment is £200m – seen by some as a hopelessly optimistic figure.

And even if the price of building the tube link remained on target, it’s uncertain where REO would find £200m, given the company’s unfortunate financial position and hefty debts.

It’s hard to see how a valuation of the Battersea Power Station site, and of its worth to the developers, can be at all conclusive. £388m is an attractive figure for a company mired in debt, but to anyone else it looks optimistic at best, and at worst completely unrealistic. It is also £12m less than REO paid for the site.

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Battersea Power Station owners deep in debt

REO co-owner Rob Tincknell

Property firm REO, whose portfolio includes Battersea Power Station, owes millions of euro to its banks, and to the Irish taxpayer.

The company owes a total of €2bn to its banks. This includes nearly €1bn owed to Nama, Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency – set up by the Irish government to take on the debts of banks bailed out in the financial crisis.

With a property portfolio valued at €1.3bn (including the Battersea site, whose valuation is problematic in itself), the company’s debts now far outstrip its assets.

That’s not the end of REO’s problems: it recorded a pre-tax loss of £900m for the 14 months to February 2010. The announcement of those accounts, in June this year, caused a 50% fall in the company’s share price, taking it down to just 8 pence per share, and a market value below £40m. The company is not in good financial health.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that REO are looking to separate the potentially lucrative Battersea Power Station site from the company as a whole. They hope to draw off the property into a separate company, and list it on the stock market before the end of the year.

Investment partners are being sought to help fund the project, with international property groups and Middle Eastern wealth funds thought to be expressing interest.

But these grand plans could be brought to a halt if Wandsworth Borough Council decide not to grant planning permission. Elsewhere on the Spectacle Blog you can find out more about the historical preservation groups who are opposing the developer’s plans for the site.

You can also watch our interview with Alex Baldwin of the Victorian Society and other clips about the power station in the Spectacle video archive.

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Treasury Holdings Northern Line Battersea Extension Plans

As we have mentioned here on the Spectacle blog previously; owners of Battersea Power Station, REO (Real Estate Opportunities), have some illustrious plans to bring the Northern line to the Power Station. The project has received support from the mayor’s office but no public money is being put towards it from either the mayor’s office or the Department of Transport. This extension would serve to sever the two branches of the Northern Line so that only Bank services would travel to Morden and Charing Cross services would end in Battersea. As it is very few Charing Cross branch trains travel past Kennington. Far from benefiting the local community, this extension is effectively an attempt to build a private station for a private development with little to no concern for the local people.

In typical architectural consultation manner, they’ve produced 4 proposals and asked people to choose which one they believe will be the most beneficial. One of these maps is reproduced below and they can also be found over at London Reconnections along with some other useful information about the extension plans.

As can be observed on the below map taken from OpenStreetMap, REO’s consultation map conveniently crops Victoria station and forgets to label Queenstown Road and Battersea Park stations. The South London Line which runs from Victoria and London Bridge passes through Battersea Park station thus the Power Station site is already connected to these two major stations. Additionally Queenstown Road station, five minutes walk from the Power Station site, is one stop away from Vauxhall Station. With these two connections to major stations very nearby, surely extending the tube to the area is a bit over the top? Tunneling is not a cheap process after all.

Another proposal suggests extending the Northern Line to Vauxhall en route to the new Battersea station, but as we mentioned, Vauxhall is already easily reachable from Queenstown Road station and is in fact actually quite a crowded station already. The other two proposals suggest an intermediary station in Nine Elms, either around New Covent Garden Market or at the site of the current Sainsburys. The intention here is to serve the Nine Elms opportunity area and the new planned US Embassy (allegedly their 12 storey embassy building requires some underground facilities). However a few more buses in the area could easily serve this purpose or even a small tram service which would be far cheaper than costly tunneling. Besides, Vauxhall is really only a short walk away.

The consultation has included a Freepost Questionnaire for anyone who would like to inform Treasury/REO how they feel about the proposals. It is also worth considering that Treasury Holdings are conducting the consultation themselves and likely have no obligation to share the results. Either way, how would the public know that any published results of the consultation would match up with the actual results?

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

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

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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.

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

Visit Spectacle’s on-going Battersea Power Station Project

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

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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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Battersea Power Station = Regenicide

Relay sign still

Inside the BPS, 20 Oct 2009

A spiky piece sent to the Evening Standard by Conservation Architecture & Planning office Jack Warshaw caught our eye recently.  In the piece he denounces the redevelopment plans in Nine Elms and lambastes proposals for the new US Embassy.

“The projected new embassy’s security requirements…assume a “worst case” scenario of armed terrorist attack.  The resulting stockade mentality…  will contribute nothing towards making the area a more accessible, human-scaled place. Americans like me will be embarrassed by it.  Londoners will shake their fists at it.”

“The Power Station was doomed when Wandsworth Council failed to safeguard it from the collapse of John Broome’s scheme and English Heritage washed its hands of it… Regeneration? Don’t make me laugh… Just more examples of “regenicide”- killing off a place in the name of regenerating it.”

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 for more Battersea Power Station links

Spectacle Home Page

If you would like to object to these plans 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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