Health and safety gone mad?… Events held at Battersea Power Station despite ‘big chunks falling off’ chimneys

The first of Battersea Power Station’s emblematic cream chimneys is likely to be demolished this month by its current owners, the Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), which is part of the Sime Darby consortium. The company claims its intention is to replace the chimneys – which it says are beyond repair (despite evidence to the contrary) – with identical replicas. However both John Broome’s precedent and discrepancies between the company’s reasoning and its actions suggest this might never happen, as, of course, does the commercial potential of the site, without the power station sitting awkwardly in the centre of it.

Footage shows Robert Tincknell, Chief Executive Officer of Battersea Power Station Development Company, insisting that the chimneys have “structurally failed” and that “big chunks are falling off”. However the company continues to lease the site for public events, including Everyman Cinema film screenings and ‘Street Feasts’, held in the shadow of the chimneys Tincknell says are disintegrating. Event-goers have not been told to wear hard hats or other protective gear, but perhaps this is because these things would be useless in the event that an entire chimney is brought down by high wind, as Richard Barrett, an Irish property investor who co-owned Battersea Power Station before it was bought by the Sime Darby consortium, has previously suggested may happen at any time.

The Sime Darby consortium – which has been accused of exploiting the local community at their oil palm plantation in Liberia – have so far put up only £11 million of bond money to guarantee the replacement of the chimneys, a woefully small sum, and one suggested by their own employee, Philip Gullet, Chief Operating Officer at Battersea Power Station Development Company. In addition to this the bond money has been deposited into an account with Malaysian bank CIMB, making it more difficult for Wandsworth Council and English Heritage to access it in the event that Battersea Power Station Development Company default. According to campaigners, it is imperative to its retrieval that the bond money is moved to a British bank account.

In response to these criticisms, Battersea Power Station Development Company have agreed to a meagre compromise; they will demolish one chimney to begin with and must partially rebuild this before they can demolish the other three. This is still flouting the Council’s original rules, which said that the chimneys must be demolished one at a time.
Campaigners believe that partially rebuilding one tower is not enough to guarantee the completion of four new chimneys. They suggest that Battersea Power Station Development Company are clearing the site little by little and point to the fact that, despite owning a vast swathe of riverfront, Battersea Power Station Development Company have removed the power station’s listed cranes purportedly to allow the chimney rubble to be removed by boat. There are concerns that the cranes won’t be brought back, and some consider their removal to be further evidence that Sime Darby have no intention of actually renovating the power station.

However, in an unusually considerate move,Battersea Power Station Development Company have at least set up a helpline number, for those traumatised by the sight of the maimed power station scarring the skyline, perhaps during their daily commute.

Our short video comments on the discrepancy between the developer’s claim that the chimneys are rapidly disintegrating, and their actions in allowing public events to take place on site, directly below the “structurally failed” chimneys. It also includes the helpline number, in case you feel personally disturbed by the destruction of Battersea Power Station.

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Battersea Power Station 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…

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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