Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon

We are pleased to announce the launch of the film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon tells the story of Battersea Power Station from its prominence as a site of industrial power through the years of dereliction, speculation and planning blight to the replacement of the chimneys under the current scheme – a key example of developer-led preservation.

Filmed over 15 years, Spectacle’s new documentary follows the grassroots campaigns of Battersea Power Station Community Group to preserve the building for the public good. It takes us straight to the heart of the current conservation debate about whether – and how – historic buildings should be preserved, governed, modified or replaced, and ‘who’ they belong to.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon is unique in raising awareness to the plight of historic building preservation in an age of aggressive ‘big business’ redevelopment and gives voice to the local communities, rarely consulted and often overlooked.

The project was made possible by World Monuments Fund through support from American Express.

The film is available for free private viewing for individuals. Institutions and libraries can buy or rent the film on Vimeo on Demand.

It is also possible to purchase a DVD on our web page.

Watch more videos on Battersea Power Station
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SPECTACLE ANNOUNCES NEW FILM ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION

PRESS RELEASE: SPECTACLE ANNOUNCES NEW FILM ON BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Where's the Chimney?

Where the Ducks the Chimney? Battersea Power Station 2015

Spectacle has announced that work has begun on its new film about Battersea Power Station, commissioned by the World Monuments Fund and American Express. The film is due for release in Autumn 2015.

The film will look at the historical and architectural significance of the power station, as well as the tireless efforts of the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) which have led a grassroots campaign to preserve the building for the public good since the early 80s.

Working with the BPSCG, the film will raise awareness to the plight of building preservation in an age of redevelopment. The redevelopment of Battersea Power Station has aroused a passionate and highly-charged debate about whether – and how – iconic buildings should be governed, preserved, modified or replaced, and ‘who’ they belong to. As Colin Thom concludes in the Survey of London Chapter: “Perhaps more than any other structure today it represents the impotence of the heritage lobby when faced with big business at its most rapacious.”

The film will follow this debate in an even-handed, factual and interesting way, becoming a case study for similar issues in other cities around the world where a historic building finds itself on a high value site.

From gracing the covers of a Pink Floyd album to generating a fifth of London’s energy at its height, Battersea Power Station is a creation steeped in industrial history and rich in meaning. With stunning imagery throughout the ages – some from Spectacle’s archive and others newly shot – the film will reveal, in a unique manner, some of that history and meaning. It will raise awareness to the needs for preservation and the current challenges faced by conservation.

***
About Spectacle

Spectacle is an award-winning independent television production company specialising in documentary, community-based investigative journalism and participatory media.  Spectacle has been documenting the changing landscape around Battersea Power Station for the past 15+ years.

Spectacle’s film work has been exhibited at galleries worldwide, including Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool. The Photographers Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Art, National Film Theatre in London. Glasgow Centre for Contemporary Art, National Architecture Institute Netherlands, Kunstverein Hamburg, Pianofabriek and “Bozar” Brussels.

It’s broadcast films include “Battle of Trafalgar”, (Winner of Prix du Public Nyon Film Documentaire), “The Truth Lies in Rostock” (Nyon Documentary Award Special Mention).  The Guantanamo films- “Outside The Law” &   “Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice”.

 

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Mainstream media on Battersea Power Station’s financial and social unsustainability

Battersea Power Station, since the end of 2014, has been standing wounded with only three chimneys left, and we have not yet seen any sign that the Battersea Power Station Development Company is starting the rebuilding work on the SW chimney.

View from Battersea Park Station, taken by Spectacle on 23/02/2015

Battersea Power Station from Battersea Park Station. Image taken by Spectacle on 23/02/2015

Meanwhile, some of our worries about the social impact and the financial viability of the whole project have been shared by a number of different analysts.

For instance, our concerns about the financial viability of Big Bang Development grow stronger as main-stream financial newspapers, such as Bloomberg, have highlighted that after the positive performances of recent years, London’s house prices have now started going down.  Bloomberg states, in a recent article, that “prices in emerging prime London fell 2 percent in the final quarter of 2014, according to Douglas & Gordon” and that “the area, which includes the Nine Elms neighborhood, was the worst performer in “emerging prime” London last year, broker Douglas & Gordon Ltd. said”. “Overseas demand for prime London homes is cooling, and some upscale projects being marketed “have gone over to Asia and probably haven’t done as well as they would have” in early 2014” quoting Jack Simmons, head of U.K. residential development and investment at broker Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

This alarming report, suggesting that the degrading value of houses might scare investors and threaten the financial plan of big projects such as the one by Battersea Power Station Development Company, was corroborated in an article by The Telegraph. The Telegraph reports that properties in the Nine Elms area are already flipped, thrown on the market to make some gains, before even a single brick of the flats has been put in place. This circumstance seem to confirm our impressions, sharing with The Telegraph’s journalist the “concern that homes built in the early phase of the huge project, were mainly reserved by investors – who have waited for the market to pick up before “flipping” them – and overseas buyers”. Instead of sounding an alarm in the heads of Battersea Power Station Development Company, the same article tells us that a spokeswoman for the company said: “We launched phase one at Battersea Power Station over two years ago and we are pleased to see that the early pioneer purchasers, who helped to get this project off the ground have experienced good levels of growth”.

If fluctuations of the property market could turn investors away, the new strength of British Sterling on the foreign exchange market could cause even more troubles to South Asian Buyers. The Star, one of the most popular Malaysian news sites, published a page explaining how to deal with loans in foreign currencies to prevent investments, such as a flat in Battersea Power Station, turning disastrous by weaker local currencies.

Rahim & Co consultant, marketing (London properties), Guy Major says “It is ‘dangerous’ to have a mismatch between your ability to pay based in ringgit and a pound-denominated loan,” he says.

If our concerns about the finances of the project are aimed at putting question marks over the narrative used by big bang developers to sell their projects, other media apparently started sharing our worries about the social impact of this monster development. The Guardian came out recently with a long and quite critical article about Battersea Power Station, “the biggest building site in London, and one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe”. Significantly titling the article “Battersea is part of a huge building project – but not for Londoners”, the Guardian highlights the tendency of new developments in London to get higher – “Hong Kongification” as Tony Travers, director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics, puts it.

The Guardian quotes Ravi Govindia, the Conservative leader of Wandsworth council  “Yes, some of the buildings will be tall, but there will be a distinctly London flavour. It’s going to be a place that people [will] enjoy living in.” Govindia says, adding that the project “will bring 25,000 permanent jobs plus 20,000 construction and engineering jobs during the building phase”), the article warns that building luxury flats for wealthy foreign buyers is exacerbating the housing problem for thousands of Londoners in need of homes.

On the other hand, Will Martindale, Labour MP candidate for Battersea, in a blog posted on The Huffington Post, shared his concerns (and some of his neighbor’s) about the way Battersea is changing: property prizes going well beyond local people’s budgets, riverfront views are blocked by multi-story buildings and very few new flats will eventually house locals while oversea investors and developers will make a fortune. As Will Martindale says “This is our riverfront. It’s part of our shared heritage, not simply a strip of real estate. We would do well to remember Battersea Council’s old motto: Not for you, not for me, but for us.”

At the moment, our impression is that it’s becoming ever more theirs…

 

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Battersea Power Station and the Great British Housing Crisis

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently released an accurate and in-depth research about the British Housing Crisis.  The investigation is focused on the ever growing lack of social and affordable houses in UK, revealing some of the tricks developers use to overcome the commitments they are requested to fulfill by local authorities. The article is largely based on development schemes in the socalled Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area (VNEB). In these areas Spectacle has been engaged for years producing media and informative blogs about the social and economic flaws in “big bang” speculative developments and how they conflict with meaningful and sensitive architectural preservation and thriving urban environments. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s authors give interesting keys to understand the dynamics behind big projects, the contradictions of the property market and its impact on Britain’s most vulnerable people. We warmly recommend it.

Click on the image to read the article

This is how developers advertise their scheme on the fences around Battersea Power Station

This is the hilarious way developers choose to advertise their scheme on Battersea Power Station

 

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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.

BPS3

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.

IMG_9990

 

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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.

DSC_0673

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

DSC_0677

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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Business model of Battersea Power Station flawed

The business model of the development of the Battersea Power Station is flawed. It only needs a slight shift in interest rates or property taxes, or for the value of the pound to rise relative to Asian currencies for the foreign investor led property market boom to collapse according to Bloomberg.

tulip

It is this flawed and precarious property bubble that Transport for London (TfL) is sinking billions of pounds of public money to prop up.

At the recent public inquiry into the Northern Line Extension the response from the representatives of TfL to the many compelling arguments against the scheme made in Battersea Power Station Community Group’s objection was to insist the NLE was not aimed at solving local transport infrastructure issues but to enhance property values in the so called Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area.

In this time of austerity can this really be a good use of public money? It is also probably one of the most useless, unwanted and extravagant public infrastructure projects ever proposed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

London’s status as a magnet for foreign property investment was burnished in the years after the financial crisis by an investor-friendly tax regime and the falling value of the pound. That may be changing.

A new capital-gains tax on homes sold by people living abroad and a growing British economy that’s lifting the currency may dull the capital city’s appeal to property buyers from abroad. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the new capital-gains tax in a statement to Parliament on Dec. 5. It will apply to “future gains” after the tax goes into effect in April 2015, he said without specifying the size of the levy. Capital-gains tax rates for second homes of U.K. residents currently range from 18 percent to 28 percent. Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, head of the Liberal Democrats, which govern in a coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party, support an annual levy on houses valued at more than 2 million pounds known as the mansion tax. Cameron opposes the idea.

Other than that, South Asian buyers account for two-thirds of new London homes sold before completion, according to Land Securities Group Plc, the largest U.K. real estate investment trust. The high-end market is dependent on pre-sales to overseas buyers to help get development finance and deal with rising land costs, Michael Lister, a lecturer at University of Westminster, said in a Nov. 22 interview. Singapore and Hong Kong, two destinations also favored by south Asian buyers, have introduced measures to cool property prices and curb speculation. Singapore linked borrowers’ maximum debt levels to their incomes and raised transaction and capital-gains taxes. Hong Kong has increased minimum down payments six times in fewer than three years and in February doubled stamp-duty taxes for all properties over HK$2 million ($258,000).

To end with, the pound plummeted against a basket of major currencies after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., making London homes a relative bargain for wealthy investors and buyers from emerging Asian economies. The Singapore dollar gained 60 percent against the pound from September 2007 to June this year and the Malaysian ringgit climbed by 50 percent. Since then, the pound has risen 6.8 percent and 12 percent respectively against the Asian currencies.

Farmer of EC Harris said:

“One of the key drivers around demand in that market, particularly from the Far East, has been the relative weakness of sterling over the last three or four years,”“The improving economy is good for U.K. Plc but it might make residential investment slightly less competitive or good value in the eyes of the international community.”

View the full article.

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What a way to run a Railway Inquiry

From day one TfL (Transport for London) made it clear the proposed Northern Line Extension (NLE) was not about addressing transport infrastructure but about enhancing property values in the so called Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The only question the NLE seems to address is how, in the middle of a freezing winter, can a City Fat Cat wake up in his £30m glass and steel penthouse, that desecrates the Art Deco architectural integrity of the Power Station and, North American style, get to his City penthouse office “desk” without going outside. Going to “work”  attired in just summer casuals- slacks and short sleeve shirt?

Answer have public money spent on running an underground tube to your door step so you can take a private lift down to the platform ( via the shopping mall ) and get on a city branch train direct to the City.

Aside from the ludicrous cost of this white elephant toy train for the rich there is the fact that all those commuters living south of Kennington will have to change trains there to get on the City Branch.

Since 1983 the Battersea Power Station Community Group have drawn attention to the neglect of the Battersea Power Station by a succession of owners. They have criticised inappropriate and harmful development proposals and proposed their own alternatives, such as the People’s Plan of 1986. Recently they released their ‘Proof of Evidence’ on the Northern Line Extension in Battersea. A summary of what came out of it:

“We support the principle of connecting the tube to Battersea Power Station, provided it was publicly funded and serves the whole of north Battersea, including Battersea Park, Latchmere and Clapham Junction, reducing unit costs. We also feel that transportation improvements could be achieved more quickly and at lower cost if other transort modes had also been considered. The current proposal represents poor value of money.

We do not consider that having a tube station in east Battersea to be a condition precedent for the succesful redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station site or other sites in the VNEB ”Opportunity Area” would certainly not be considered. The development of these sites has gone ahead on the basis of existing transport infrastructure. The justification that the NLE would support development at higher densities necessary to pay for it is circular and illogical.

We fear that, despite the arguments advanced at this inquiry, the decision to build NLE has already been made. The NLE appears in government budgets and announcements where is it talked about by politicians as if already agreed. Implementation of planning permission 2009/3575 is impossible without the NLE being built. Nevertheless we hope that – in the light of the evidence presented- the outcome of this inquiry will confound the expectations of TfL and Wandsworth Council, and will cause transport provision in east Battersea to be reconsidered.”

Connecting Battersea to the tube network (NLE or some other line) is a wider public good. The developer of the Battersea Power Station site should not be asked to pay for this.

To conclude with, transportation improvements could be made more quickly and at lower costs if other transport modes had been considered. The current proposal represents very poor value for money. Connecting the tube to Battersea Power Station would however be supported, provided it was publicly funded and serves the whole of north Battersea, including Battersea Park, Latchmere and Clapham Junction, reducing unit costs.

For a full critique of the NLE see Proof of Evidence 13-12-13

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