Battersea Power Station – from no mans land to architectural extravaganza

 

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The iconic Battersea Power Station is at the heart of Rafael Vinoly’s master plan – a massive “regeneration” scheme for Battersea.

The riverfront district of Southwest London around the Battersea Power Station will soon be unrecognizable due to a huge “regeneration” scheme. The Battersea Power Station which has remained largely unused since its closure in 1983 is at the heart of this luxury housing development financed by a Malaysian real estate investment group Eco World.

This regeneration scheme has recently hit the headlines with its culmination London’s first ‘sky pool’, a swimming pool which has been planned to bridge two 10-storey buildings in Embassy Garden’s as a part of the Battersea “redevelopment” plan.

However Nine Elms ‘sky pool’ has not been acclaimed by everyone. A private swimming pool sky bridge in the middle of London’s affordable housing crises has stormed critique as a symbol of rising inequality. The recent newspaper headlines show the other side of the story of the highest residential swimming pool in London:

The Independent wrote: “Nine Elms ‘sky pool’: luxury London flat owners  will be able to swim while literally looking down on everyone else”.

In addition, The Guardian stated: “The ‘sky pool’ is just the start: London prepares for a flood of bathing oligarchs”.

The planned luxury flats are being criticized for being aimed at wealthy foreign buyers taking advantage of the rising value of property in London. In January 2013 the first residential apartments went on sale and now all of the Thames-facing apartments have already been sold, way before the project was even launched.

Last year the reselling cycle made possible that the flats with starting prices from £1 million were on sale later on the year for £1.5 million. However the rapidly increasing prices are only a one side of the issue. The fundamental conflict lies on the fact that only 16 % of the planned new homes (560 of the total of 3,444) will be affordable housing.

pbs model

The “redevelopment” of Battersea would change the Landscape of London – the iconic Power Station would be surrounded by huge building blocks.

Since the power station ceased generating electricity in the 80s, it has become one of the best known landmarks in London. As the largest brick building in Europe, the iconic power station was listed on the World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund in 2004.

During the past 50 years, numerous redevelopment plans for the Battersea Power Station have been introduced. However these projects have usually failed due to a lack of funding. In 2010 Real Estate Opportunities were granted permission to redevelop the power station. This resulted in the creation of the current master plan for Battersea, an architect Rafael Vinoly’s design which gained planning consent from Wandsworth Council in 2011.

However, Vinoly does not have exactly a clean architectural record. According to the BBC the ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper on Fenchurch Street in London had been blamed for reflecting light and causing a ‘death ray’ with a high temperature. The 37-storey tower designed by Rafael Vinoly was claimed to damage vehicles by melting parts of them and even causing fires.

Last week Building Design magazine announced that Walkie Talkie, nicknamed because of its bulbous, curving shape was voted for the worst building in London. Building Design’s annual Carbuncle Cup sparked an online debate including not so flattering comments about the building such as one reader commenting: “I now have a new personal goal: to live long enough to see this building demolished”.

Now the planned Phase 3 with proposals for the future of Battersea and the power station has been revealed by the Battersea Power Station Development Company, a Malaysian consortium in charge of the project. The Phase 3 of the project will provide 1,310 residential homes with only 103 of them being affordable which is less than 8 % of the houses that are planned to be build.

Will this solve the growing divide in the London housing market? Very unlikely. So far it seems that the beneficiaries are the wealthy few who the housing crisis doesn’t hit with its sky-high prices.

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Save Kimber Road and Battersea adventure playgrounds

Wandsworth Against the Cuts has opened an online petititon to the Government to avoid the closure of Kimber Road and Battersea Park playgrounds. As York Gardens Playground has been recently flattened by builders they believe Kimber Road could be torn down as early as this Friday and Battersea soon after.

Campaigners claim that the closure of the adventure playgrounds will deprive children and young teenagers of things to do on these areas.

Visit Wandsworth Against the Cuts website for ways to try and prevent this happening.

It seems that Malaysian owners Sime Darby´s plans for the regeneration of the Battersea Power Station does not include any playground areas among these 3.400 homes, 2 hotels and dozens of shops and restaurants.

It would be a very good idea if part of (a publicly owned) Battersea Power Station were to be designated a huge public adventure playground for the joy of all the children of the area. But it is clear Wandsworth Council does not see providing for children as important as helping to enrich property developers by sanctioning the building of DINKy (Double Income No Kids- yet) Ghettos.

Check this video out for more information about this story.

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Keith Garner on Rob Tincknell

Keith Garner, local architect and member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, has laid out a tyraid of questions to the chief executive of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, Rob Tincknell.

In an article described as ‘sycophantic and uncritical’ by Garner, Tincknell answered a series of questions about his involvement with the new plans for the regeneration of Battersea Power Station.

Garner responded strongly to the article, posing probing questions that still need answering. For example;

Why did Treasury Holdings not complete any substantive work in the five years they owned Battersea Power Station between 2006 and 2011, when you were in charge?

Why is the river walk connecting to Battersea Park still not built when your colleagues at Treasury Holdings promised at a meeting in 2011 that this would be done?

Why are you currently carrying out a “public consultation”, when it is clear that you have no intention of responding to any of the concerns raised?

The list ended with Garner asking, ‘Perhaps you would put some of these questions to Rob Tincknell as well?’

We can’t see the Architects Journal being so bold, but are keen to have these questions answered ourselves.

If you have any questions you want answering, let us know and we’ll try to pose them to the companies behind Battersea.

You can read the article itself, and Keith’s full response here, http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/daily-news/rob-tincknell-committed-to-battersea/8635755.article

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Brian Barnes Skeptical of Latest Battersea Plans

Brian Barnes has publicly said that he’s continually doubtful of the new plans set out by Sime Darby to regenerate Battersea Power Station.

Barnes, the driving force behind the Battersea Power Station Community Group that he begun 29 years ago, has seen many plans come and go in his time and is sure the recent proposal from the Malaysian giant will be just another in a long list of failed plans.

He has also criticised the plans for not having enough affordable housing, claiming that no-one from the local area will be able to afford to live there, especially young people looking to get onto the property ladder.

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Battersea Plans Unveiled

Sime Darby have released their plans for their regeneration of Battersea Power Station. This Friday (14th) 10:00am-6:00pm and Saturday (15th) 10:00am-4:00pm will see an exhibition of these plans at the Consultation Suite, Battersea Power Station (Gate 2).

These plans have been reported to involve the demolition of the chimneys, and replicas being constructed as the degredation of the current structures is said to be too much to allow a conservation effort.

Around 3,400 homes, including 500 classified as “affordable” will be built on the 29-acre site, as well as two hotels, 160,000 sq ft of offices and dozens of shops and restaurants in a new “high street”. This work is part of their 12-year development project, with a park and walkway projected for completion as early as next April.

Visit www.batterseapowerstation.co.uk for more information.
Email powerstation@batterseasociety.org.uk with your thoughts on the proposed plans.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
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Battersea Power Station Estimated Construction Facts

The Malaysian consortium, the new owners of Battersea Power Station,  has announced in a press release that the regeneration of Battersea Power Station is estimated to cost £6-8bn. This news has spread across the media as the project is set to create 20,000 construction jobs as well as 13,000 permanent jobs. Also it is announced that the project will create 3,500 homes.

On the surface this announcement sounds like a good deal, but  how many of the homes will actually be ‘affordable’, the London plan requires 50%, and for how long will the 20,000 construction workers be employed? It is possible that some of these jobs will only last a few weeks.

Local people have heard this all before.

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Battersea Power Station – Sale agreed but not signed

According to a source in English Heritage, the Malaysian consortium (Sime Darby, SP Setia and Employees Provident Fund) who have agreed to buy Battersea Power Station have not actually signed the contract – so it is not too late to change their minds.

 

One of the iconic images of the power station - Pink Floyd's Animals

 

A recent announcement of a predicted 30% fall in the London property prices is just one of the reasons why the consortium and it’s shareholders may want to think again.

Reading the Asian press, it doesn’t seem like the consortium, or at least their shareholders, actually realise the costs, limitations and responsibilities involved in buying a grade II listed building.

Press release articles surrounding the sale refer vaguely to ‘possible preservation‘ of the power station, with talk of merely ‘motivator profit‘ and also of the potential of a ‘400m river front‘ that seems to completely ignore the power station itself, and indeed the smelly waste disposal unit situated directly on the river front in question.

The power station features heavily in London’s iconography, recently throughout the London 2012 Olympics with James Bond and Her Majesty taking a flight over it in the Opening Ceremony, and also it features as one of the ‘London Landmarks’ . Hopefully this renewed pride of Londoners will force English Heritage to awake from it’s slumber and move into action insisting on repairs to Battersea Power Station, which could potentially be extremely expensive.

 

 

Nick Cuff, chairman of Planning at Wandsworth Borough Council spoke at the Future of Battersea event (Southbank University, 26th July), claiming that the Northern Line extension would probably not be funded by the developer but by central Government as part of its infrastructure investment programme. Interestingly, the major reason cited by REO (the previous developers) for having significantly less than the required 50% affordable housing was precisely because they were having to contribute to the tube line extension. So SP Setia and Sime Darby need to factor in the 50% affordable housing into their new development plans.

It has also been reported that the consortium will adopt the Vinoly plan, but this does not seem to make sense. Why would they take on such an implausible and previously failed scheme? The greedy and expensive Vinoly plan justified being so densely developed in order to recoup the costs of transport infrastructure – so that too can be challenged if the taxpayer is expected to foot the Northern Line extension costs.

So despite the attempts by Wandsworth Borough Council to present the change of ownership as a seamless continuation of the old Battersea Power Station development started by REO in fact everything is up for grabs again. The new owners and their share holders could find themselves with a completely unviable scheme and a PR disaster. Crassly developing or neglecting this much loved building could result in the new owners being the most despised developers in London.

Its not too late for the consortium to change their mind. Their share holders should be asking- do they know what they have let themselves in for?

 

 

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Letter to English Heritage from Battersea Power Station Community Group on future plans

 

Keith Garner has written the letter below on behalf of the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) to English Heritage. It outlines their proposal to purchase the monumental building for £1 and then their community driven plans for the future of the station.

 

12th June 2012
Dr Edward Impey
English Heritage
1 Waterhouse Square
138 – 142 Holborn
London EC1N 2ST

Dear Edward,

BATTERSEA POWER STATION

Thank you for calling me last week to discuss Battersea Power Station following our recent letter to Kay Andrews asking her for a meeting. It was good to hear from you again of course, but I was disappointed to hear that Kay Andrews is not able to see us, and that English Heritage does not think it has a role to play in resolving this long-standing issue at this time.

As has been EH’s policy in recent times, you are leaving it to others to come up with solutions. Our most recent initiative – one of many over the last 29 years – was to propose to the administrators to divide Battersea Power Station itself from the South Lambeth Goods Yard site (acquired by John Broome), placing the former in a trust with an endowment, and selling the latter to pay the creditors. The Battersea Power Station Company – a charitable trust we set up in 2002 – offered £1 to take over the building and to open it to the public in the short term. We discussed this last week when you agreed that this sounded like a plausible approach.

Other organisations have also been active in bringing forward initiatives. In April, the Twentieth Century Society organised a symposium to discuss the future of the building. One of the key points of consensus to emerge was desirably of some form of trust ownership, which prompted us to make our bid. Other than the Survey of London personnel, I don’t think English Heritage was represented at the symposium. This was unfortunate, as you would also have seen a very interesting scheme for the building and surrounding area put forward by Marcus Binney of SAVE and Graham Morrison of Allies & Morrison.

The scheme develops ideas in SAVE’s 1981 report (which Graham Morrison also worked on) proposing an amphitheatre in the central boiler house space. This would be unroofed initially using temporary seating similar to that proposed for Olympic events, e.g. A&M’s scheme for Greenwich Park. Longer term, the intention would be to roof the space (an unroofed space would not be a good neighbour in the longer term) and to re-inhabit other parts of the building. Meanwhile the development of the surrounding site would commence.

The scheme would achieve many of the things Battersea Power Station Community Group has advocated over the years. It allows public access to Battersea Power Station. It proposes a sensible phased refurbishment of the building itself and the site around, taking a much longer view than other schemes we have seen. New buildings respect the scale of the Power Station and allow it to continue to exist as an urban monument. The listed Victorian pumping station is also retained. (We would hope of course to see social housing of various kinds as well.)

We also feel that the SAVE/Allies & Morrison scheme is consistent with our proposal to divide the two sites, with the Power Station put into a trust. Indeed, the SAVE/Allies & Morrison scheme might be facilitated if this was done. There is a strong commercial case for SP Setia to put the Power Station into a trust. As a predominantly public building it becomes a “draw” raising the profile of the adjacent commercial site. But at the same time, SP Setia would not be responsible for looking after the building or making it work commercially.

Much of the inflated price of £400m is predicated on having to pay for the “restoration” of the building. This in turn will lead to the over-development of the surrounding site; as we have already seen with the widely condemned Vinoly outline permission. If the obligation to look after the listed building is taken away from SP Setia, then perhaps some height reductions can be negotiated, to the scale A&M propose? Some funding could plausibly come from the HLF instead, the popular Battersea Power Station being a worthy recipient of public money.

There is a further question you should take up with central government, namely the financing of the Northern Line extension. Battersea Power Station Community Group is sceptical as to the necessity of this line, given the two overground stations, plentiful buses etc. But if it is to happen the new owners should not be expected to make a £200m contribution toward the cost of it. The public good here is the preservation of and public access to Battersea Power Station. The new owners should not be encumbered with the additional cost of funding a tube contribution as well.

Surely then, this is an opportunity for English Heritage to influence the future of Battersea Power Station. But there is little time as only 28 days – the ‘due diligence’ period – has been allowed for negotiations. The building is still standing, another over-development has collapsed – as predicted – and the threat to demolish the chimneys is no longer imminent. And there are very positive and possible ideas to save Battersea Power Station as outlined above. With all these factors before us, now would seem to be a good time to meet.

Yours sincerely,
Keith Garner
for Battersea Power Station Community Group
E-mail: keithwgarner@btinternet.com

cc Mr Paul Appleton Allies & Morrison
Brian Barnes MBE BPSCG
Mr Marcus Binney SAVE Britain’s Heritage
Dr Catherine Croft Twentieth Century Society
Lord Alf Dubs

Answer came there none.

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Battersea Power Station: Out of the frying pan into the fire

The horror story continues…

Nightmare on Nine Elm Street

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

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

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Victorian Pumping Station video tour

www.flickr.com

The Battersea Power Station Community Group were  given a short tour of the Victorian Pumping Station – soon to be demolished if REO receive planning permission for Rafael Viñoly’s Masterplan. There have been strong objections including The Victorian Society and Save Britains Heritage.

To view a short edit of the tour follow the link below.

Battersea Power Station, Pumping Station Archive

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