Battersea Power Station only a place for the rich?

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Supposedly, Battersea Power Station is getting a new life. The vision is of a lively community where people can contact each other through their own social networks,  meet their neighbours in memberships clubs, small children  splash in a pool while their mums chat, shoppers cruise cafes and exclusive shops unique to the area- for some a nice vision.

A marketing person’s image of the perfect place to live, why would you ever want to move from one of the top five places in London? What can possibly be wrong with a community like this?

One problem can be that the first 800 flats are being sold off plan to rich people in Asia. Even if the plan is to build 3,500 new homes, when a forth of the houses are being sold to people who probably will not live there most of the time, will that really contribute to a lively neighbourhood?

An other question that needs to be raised is what is going to happen to the existing communities in Battersea? With luxury estates being built in the area, bringing expensive shops with them, the rents of the properties in the surrounding areas will probably be rise substantially. Especially if they succeed in building this community for rich people, the demand for apartments will rise and once again the rents will get higher.

With many people in the neighbouring estates, such as the Patmore estate, being low-income, a rent increase would be devastating. This would lead to most of the people being forced to move, but the question is to where? And is it really fair to force people who served and have been a part of a community to leave it just because of the effects from the luxury buildings across the road. Especially since almost a forth of the flats will not be sold to people in London who needs a place to live.

So one person’s idea of the perfect community is a nightmare for others.  Is it really worth the price? And do we really want to live in a world where some people are worth more than other just based on money?

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Battersea Redevelopment Scheme

Wandsworth Borough Council recently acknowledged the dedicated hard work of six volunteers. See this article from the Council to read about these people. Their commitment is a shining example of the potential to locally promote the concept of opportunity.

That is in stark contrast to the proposed redevelopment scheme around Battersea Power Station. If the scheme is to go ahead the lowest sale price will be in the region of £700,000. It is not designed for local growth; for one, the average London resident cannot come close to affording the prices, and, secondly, the primary purpose is to attract eastern investors. Have a read of this article from the Architect’s Journal. Battersea is a borough proud of its heritage, including of course a long-standing association with the world famous power station. As the AJ article also highlights, local residents’ view of the power station will be severely disrupted. The redevelopment scheme, apart from damaging the view of the power station, will impose a mono-culture of gentrification resembling Canary Wharf.

London Mayor Boris Johnson hailed the scheme as the greatest source of growth in London since Canary Wharf. Indeed attracting foreign investment, as the scheme will likely do, would be of huge benefit to the financial district. However, it is difficult to see the economic benefits on a local level. Johnson stated his target of creating 25,000 jobs but any involvement in the development’s construction appears unlikely or low key since the corporate firms involved will bring in employees from exterior regions and any local work would merely be temporary. Ultimately, the scheme will work to spread the social divide that has been so horribly exposed in post-2008 Britain.

Anyhow, the scheme cannot progress in the first place without the long-planned extension of the Northern line to the Battersea power station. There is no doubt of the necessity to improve Battersea’s transport links and in recent days the matter has made headlines following Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of a £1billion loan for the extension to happen. This, as we see it, is questionable. If the government had full confidence in the extension, would they not have made a direct investment, expressing their belief in the economic benefits that it should guarantee?

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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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Your TV tonight: The undead Grey Men of Battersea Power Station

On ITV’s London Tonight and LBC radio you can watch or hear Ravi Govindia, the leader of Wandsworth Council who, as former cabinet member for “strategic planning and transportation”, is particularly responsible for the failed private-property owner led regeneration of the area,  trying to defend the borough’s pathetic policy towards the obviously flawed and greedy plans for Battersea Power Station.

Only a few days ago George Osborne and Boris Johnson were doing their best to puff the disastrous scheme which is now as all but dead and buried by the creditors calling in their loans.


For the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) it is just another “new beginning” as the fourth developer limps off stage to boos and jeers.

Keith Garner is also interviewed calling for the whole site to be put into public ownership for a sensible, viable, gradual development of the historic and beautiful building and its surrounding site. An ideal exhibition for industrial power ( see our previous blogs). Keith cites the difference in the approach of Southwark to the other Gilbert-Scott designed river front power station, the highly successful Tate Modern. Through partnerships and a gradual, planned development it shows what Battersea residents could have had these past 30 years.

WATCH: ITV London Tonight on Battersea Power Station debt

Spectacle’s crew were there today too and will be posting soon the bits of the interviews the broadcaster left out. Including an hilarious episode where the owners try to stop ITV filming by shutting the gates. Perhaps their last act.

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Creditors call in Battersea Power Station debts

For Sale

 

NAMA and Lloyds  are owed 502 million pounds ($786 million) by the owners of Battersea Power Station and they want their money back. Now.

Despite REO’s attempt at positive spin (see below) their ridiculous plan is over and it is about time the heritage site was brought into public ownership and restored as a site for Industrial Power.

 

Real Estate Opportunities plc (the Company)
Battersea Power Station facilities:

The Company announces that certain subsidiaries (BPS Subsidiaries) of Battersea Power Station Shareholder Vehicle Limited, the holding company of Battersea Power Station formed for the purposes of the restructuring that was announced in April 2011 and which is 54% owned by the Company, have received demand for repayment from Bank of Scotland plc, as agent for the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and Lloyds Banking Group the (together the senior lenders), under the senior facilities advanced in respect of the Battersea Power Station site, aggregating approximately £324m, and from Oriental Property Limited under the facilities advanced by it to the BPS Subsidiaries, aggregating approximately £178m. The BPS Subsidiaries are currently not in a position to satisfy these demands for repayment.  The Company has also been advised that NAMA  and Lloyds Banking Group have applied to the English court for the appointment of administrators to certain of the BPS  Subsidiaries and that a hearing for this purpose is to be held on 12 December 2011.
The Company remains in discussions which may result in the disposal of the group’s interest in the Battersea Powerstation site and repayment of associated liabilities.  However, there is no certainty that any such transaction will be effected.
The Company’s other assets, which are situated in Ireland, are unaffected by the above developments. The Company has recently received term sheets from NAMA, the principal lender in respect of its Irish assets, indicating NAMA’s continued support for the Company’s business in Ireland.

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Why the Northern Line extension will never happen

The recent PR buff on Battersea Power Station has left us no closer to a solution to the issue. Chancellor George Osborne and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, have been talking about the Northern Line extension and oligarch Roman Abramovich has received media attention by saying that he’s thinking about moving Chelsea Football Club‘s home ground South East of the site.

Extending the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea is one thing – funding the project is another. During the Autumn Statement in the Commons today, Osborne stated that the government will back the project – but did not mention with how much. He also called for “a developer” to contribute to the project and develop the power station site before a deadline of 2013.

The project is still heavily reliant on private funding and current owners Treasury Holdings is going to struggle. A scheme this size, roughly three times the size of Canary Wharf if you include Nine Elms, is always going to be difficult to get up and running at the best of times. But in a recession..?

Giving the Northern Line extension green light and talking up the moribund and equally fantastic Rafael Viñoly’s nightmare vision of gloomy glass canyons, is certainly invaluable property pump priming. And it’s hard to imagine why the Conservatives are so happy to collude in this theatre, given that they held their 2010 election campaign launch under the same chimneys which Battersea Power Station’s owner Richard Barrett, one of the co-founders of Treasury Holdings, once said “would fall in strong wind.”

Recently, Tory dominated Wandsworth Borough Council’s planning committee gave Treasury Holdings permission to demolish the power station’s chimneys on the grounds that they were unsafe. However, many experts disagree and local residents believe that, like the roof which was never replaced, the chimneys will never be re-built once they are gone. If Treasury Holdings really believe that the chimneys are precarious, it shows a very cavalier approach to the health and safety of Her Majesty’s Opposition, as there wasn’t a hard hat in sight.

The Battersea Power Station should become a World Heritage site for industrial power. The site has a unique Victorian Pumping Station with site of the biggest Cornish engine of its day. It also has spectacular gasometers dating from 1910 as well as, of course, the beautiful coal-powered art deco power station.

It would be nice to see Abramovich spend some of his heard-earned billions derived from oil, show some philanthropic decency and rescue the site from the clutches of the myopic grey men. They would simply turn the site into just another crass, desolated, windswept and empty river-front development along the banks of the Thames.

The Big Society was prime minister David Cameron’s flagship policy idea for the 2010 election campaign and has stated that it’s his “mission.” One may ask, if one of the world’s richest men isn’t going to chip in – then who will?

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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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Unauthorised Battersea Power Station Helipad – NO ACTION

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The unauthorised use of the grounds of the Battersea Power Station as a private helipad has received no action under the ENFORCEMENTS section of the Wandsworth Council’s Planning Application Committee agenda to be discussed at today’s meeting.

Residents have been expressing concerns since as early as June 2003 about helicopter flights causing noise and disturbance, and according to the Committee report:

DETAILS:  The number of helicopter flight movements (a landing and take-off) at
this site within the power station is logged by the Battersea Heliport and its monthly returns shows that the current level of movements is between 14 and 56 per month over the last year, an average per month of about 35 movements.   This compares to a monthly average of between 30 and 51 movements per month over the last ten years, with a peak in activity during the months of May, June and July 2007 (93, 96 and 92 movements, respectively).

All other breaches of planning control in Wandsworth Borough by small businesses are being enforced by the Committee, but nothing is being done to enforce the removal of the helipad:

RECOMMENDATION:  That the committee endorses the view that it is not
expedient to take enforcement action against the use of part of the site of Battersea
Power station for the take-off and landing of helicopters, based on the current level of usage, and that the complainants be informed accordingly.

One rule for the rich and powerful, and another for smaller, less well-connected enterprises?

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Architect Fights Demolition of Battersea’s Little Pumping Station

Conservation architect Jack Warshaw is furious that Wandsworth council is proposing to give the go-ahead for vast amounts of development around Battersea Power Station – far more than would ever have been allowed, had permission ever been given for the site to be cleared. “On each occasion the excuse was that so much building was necessary to ‘save’ the Power Station – an enabling subsidy at no cost to the public purse,” he stresses.

The irony is that as each permission has been granted, the site has been sold on at a substantial profit from the added value it has acquired with the granting of these virtual developments. Its current owners Treasury Holdings may well do the same.

By contrast, the Station itself has been allowed to decay, which Warshaw feels may already well have gone beyond the point of economic repair. “And the Little Pumping Station, the one building that could be re-used at reasonable cost, is now the subject of a squalid application to demolish. Little by little, the heritage value of the site is being eroded. The permission already granted at the Power Station is a mockery of heritage conservation!” he exclaims.

As Wandsworth’s first Conservation Officer, he was proud of having built up its reputation as a leader in preserving London’s heritage. He was also the first to try, despite not succeeding, to bring about the rescue of Battersea Power Station.

So he feels strongly that the Little Pumping Station still stands apart “begging and able to be rescued. There is no credible case for demolition. Its loss, both of itself and as part of the ensemble, can only add a further insult, covering the Borough Council with still more ignominy.”

Warshaw is also a member of local activists Bordon Area Action Group (see www.baaga.co.uk) and is currently campaigning against another large and dense development in Whitehill Bordon, which will harm the local environment and character of this charming eco-town in east Hampshire.

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New Nine Elms development no more than a Battery of Tower Blocks

Architect Keith Garner is voicing strenuous objections to the so-called ‘regeneration opportunity’ at Nine Elms in Battersea. Wandsworth council and developer St James are proposing the construction of tower blocks of 16,000 new homes, along with shops, offices and a tube extension. He went to see an interactive model of the area, along with videos and other visual displays at the exhibition at Battersea Studios, off Silverthorne Road.

Model of proposed Nine Elms development

Garner, who is also a member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, is objecting to what he views as a “deeply unattractive project,” on three grounds: the destruction of views, especially of Westminster Palace, the disappearance of promised open green spaces and thirdly, the nonsensical positioning of the new northern line extension from Kennington.

To allow a battery of tower blocks to be built at the east of the area towards Vauxhall would ruin the ordinary public’s views upstream from Waterloo and Westminster and downstream from Battersea and Chelsea, points out Garner, apart from residents and tenants of the new development. Millbank Tower, now a Grade II listed building, was consciously designed to replicate the proportions of Victoria Tower nearby. However, its presence should not be used merely to justify yet another “collection of banal residential and office towers,” which are likely to spoil the backdrop of the Palace of Westminster looking down Whitehall.

Model shows planned cluster of new tower blocks

The architect also noted that the linear park ‘green swathe’ that was such a redeeming feature and justification for the project had vanished from the model! He said it was clear from speaking to Wandsworth Borough Council (WBC) staff at the exhibition that the developers were just ignoring the requirement to have a large green open space and that they had no real power to make them provide it. “Shouldn’t the areas designated as green swathe have been compulsorily purchased or handed over by the developers to WBC?” he remonstrated.

In addition, there was a missed opportunity to move Nine Elms Lane back from the river to the approximate line of the lamented green swathe, as the narrow sites between Nine Elms Lane and the river are so pinched and uncomfortable. This would enable larger sites adjacent to the river and the possibility of more substantial riverside public space than the customary 10 metre wide riverside walk. Moving the road may or may not be a good idea, but could at least have been been investigated. Bigger blocks should be up towards Wandsworth Road, not right by the river.

Finally, the proposed Northern Line extension from Kennington seemed to be purely to serve these development sites, and was not integrated properly at all with east Battersea. “Why, for instance, does the terminus at Battersea Power Station stop about 200 metres short of Battersea Park station? Why, indeed, are there no plans to refurbish the listed Battersea Park Station?” enquires Garner. “There is no public benefit to the existing communities of east Battersea from having the Northern Line, yet almost all the S106 money will go to pay for it rather than real benefits such as upgrading Battersea Park and Queenstown Road stations from their current squalid state, or other real public benefits such as new public park on the river or a 50 metre swimming pool.”

Garner concludes: “The overall impression the exhibition gave me was that this was just another developers’ carve-up like the Guinness site and the riverbank from Wandsworth to Battersea in general, with very little public benefit and a great deal of harm. If this ‘unrivalled opportunity for businesses’ means doing so much damage in an area beside the river and close to the city centre, then the council needs to re-examine its priorities. I would prefer these sites to be left fallow until more civilised and intelligent proposals come forward.”

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