Battersea Power Station plans are pure fantasy
The Battersea Power Station Community Group played a central part in getting the Vinoly "funnel" design for the site rejected. It is not architectural detail, however, that is the main problem with Treasury Holdings' proposals but the fact that, like Parkview International's plans before, they are pure fantasy.
Repeatedly we have seen megalomaniac approaches to the site, with multi-billion budgets, promises of thousands of jobs and decade-long construction. In the present climate, these plans are less likely than ever.
When there is so much space inside the power station, why is the company proposing to construct so many buildings around it? If it is serious, it should set about refurbishing the power station in phases, starting with the switch houses, which offer standard open-plan office space. It has £100 million in borrowed funds - more than enough to get such a project up and running.
The suspicion about all this over-ambitious planning must be that Treasury Holdings is happy to keep hold of its asset without building anything until land prices increase again and it can sell the site on - as Parkview did to Treasury at a £250 million profit.
The Standard 15th April 2009
Sir. In your piece on Battersea Power Station (June 11 2008) Rob Tincknell of Real Estate Opportunities (REO) states that the chimneys of Battersea Power Station are “beyond repair” and must be rebuilt.
This is incorrect. It has been shown by an independent group of engineers, commissioned by the Battersea Power Station Company in 2005, that the chimneys can be repaired by conventional means without demolition. The engineers found that most of the cracking is due to shrinkage of the concrete, which happened when the chimneys were built in the 1930’s, and does not affect the structural stability of the chimneys. The remainder of the cracking is due to corrosion of steel reinforcement, which can be repaired.
The idea that the chimneys are “beyond repair” comes from the previous owners Parkview, who said they wanted the concrete repairs to last for 60 years. In fact, reinforced concrete structures need to be repaired at more frequent intervals, of around 25-30 years.
So it is clear the chimneys can be repaired and that is cheaper and quicker to repair them rather than to rebuild. You would think that REO would welcome this fact. The demolition and rebuilding of the chimneys is a massive civil engineering operation that no serious developer would undertake if they didn’t have to.
The fact that REO has chosen to ignore the findings of the report, and seem to be preparing to go ahead the demolition of the Grade II* listed chimneys regardless, suggests to me that they have some other agenda.
I suspect that REO has found a way around the legal obligation to rebuild the chimneys, and that when the chimneys are down, they will contrive some reason (“unexpectedly severe corrosion” to the supporting steelwork perhaps?) to justify why they can’t be rebuilt.
Wandsworth Borough News
June 18th 2008
At last the Minister of Culture, Media and Sport, Margaret Hodge, has recognised the importance of Battersea Power Station and granted it an improved listing to a Grade II* that it so richly deserves. It now joins a select list of just over 21,000 other such protected, yet threatened, buildings in the UK.
After four years Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) has been successful with its campaign to achieve this listing, while Wandsworth Council, who have shared, statutory responsibility for the care and protection of the Power Station, did nothing to support the application for the upgraded listing.
In fact, they and the local MP Martin Linton have dismally failed, time and again, to challenge the developer-owners of the building and site, as well as to put pressure on them to restore and maintain the building against continuing deterioration.
In fact, even worse, they have both agreed to the demolition of the four majestic chimneys, which with the upgrading, can now be seen as an aberration on their part.
Maybe, now, the constantly out-of-step triumvirate of Wandsworth Council, MP Martin Linton and leader of the Wandsworth opposition - "I'll eat humble pie if I am wrong" Tony Belton - will see the light and join with (BPSCG) in campaigning to save the ever popular Battersea Power Station and its chimneys.
They could then start demanding that the developer prepare a plan to restore the building to its former splendour, and develop the site to meet the needs of Londoners with a mixed housing development, including 50% affordable housing, as required by the Greater London Authority, with generous open spaces and a grand riverfront walk as at Bankside Power Station. Battersea Power Station deserves nothing less.
ERNEST RODKER, Wandle Road, London SW17
Wandsorth Borough News October 17th 2007
You report the latest excuses by Parkview spin doctor Ian Rumgay for the lack of progress at Battersea. Also the prospect of a new developer taking over (AJ 26.10.06).
Parkview may well be on their way out. But all the signs are that a new developer will be just as hostile to the listed building, continuing Parkview’s neglect and spoiling the building’s monumental impact by building blocks of flats on the adjacent site.
Of course it doesn’t have to be like this. Three years ago (AJ letters 16.10.03) I wrote to you about a proposal by Alf Dubs (Lord Dubs of Battersea) for a public interest trust to take a role in resolving this long-standing issue.
Since then, members of Battersea Power Station Community Group have set up the Battersea Power Station Company, a not-for-profit organisation, the principal objective of which is the conservation and repair of the building.
Given that Parkview appears to be unwilling to repair the building (as evidenced by the appalling conditions that could be seen by visitors to the ‘China Power Station’ exhibition at the site) the involvement of a public-interest trust, such as the Battersea Power Station Company, should now be considered.
A trust would be able to carry out targeted repairs on the exterior fabric to arrest deterioration, and open the famous ‘A’ Station interiors to the public, using Lottery and other funding. We advocate a UK Energy Centre as an apt use for the old turbine hall.
Other parts of the building would be developed on a commercial basis, as would much of the remainder of the site; although with a proper affordable housing provision hitherto left out. A phased development by a consortium of interests would have a far greater of success than the single phase multi-billion pound project advocated by Parkview over the past 10 years.
The legal framework for involving a trust would need to be established. It would also be necessary to have the building independently surveyed. The engineering team engaged last year by the World Monuments Fund and 20th Century Society, who showed that chimneys can be repaired without dismantling, should be entrusted with this.
For more information about the Battersea Power Station Company, visit: www.batterseapowerstation.com
Keith Garner, London SW11
From The Architects' Journal, 9th November 2006
From Brian Barnes
In response to the comments by Ian Rumgay in Have Your Say in last week's Borough News, we are concerned that the fate of the power station is in jeopardy.
We have for years been opposed to the plans put forward by Parkview because the influx of 10million visitors a year will seriously damage the local Battersea area for ordinary residents. Cars, pollution, parking, litter, noise 24 hours and 365 days a year but this pales to nothing when the building is a target for the speculators. Without the power station, thousand of luxury flats will be built in high rise blocks as as happened all along the Thames. Very lucrative for the Hwang family
Ballymore and Treasury Holdings, two separate Irish companies, are both trying to buy Battersea Power Station from the Hwangs
Wandsworth Council are still deliberating on the detailed planning application so it is not yet known if these will be approved.
Parkview are opposing the upgrading by English Heritage to Grade II* even though Ian Rumgay claims to love the building and they are its custodians. Nothing has been repaired on the power station itself for 13 years and the next damage will occur when all the chimneys are demolished because of cracking.
This has been shown by independent consultants to be superficial and repairable with a total cost of £28 thousand only.
They will probably never be rebuilt and the total demolition of the Power Station will follow.
The claim that Parkview have spent £200 million on the site is farcical. Any work that has been done has been carried out by the utility companies at their expense - the water pipes by Thames Water, the removal of the electricity sub station by London Electric and the heating plant by Dalkia. The Jetty has been done by the approval of Port of London Authority and the claim it cost £6 million is unsubstantiated.
The redevelopment of the local railway station at Battersea Park has not been approved and the cost has soared in one year from £25 million to £45 million.
When such figures are bandied about it seems that there is no substance to anything they say.
Battersea Power Station Community Group
From the Wandsworth Borough News, 4th October 2006
Power station and railway refit is a fairytale
From Ernest Rodker
Sir. Your news piece that Parkview International is soon to refit Battersea Park Station (Borough News, March 1) for £26million is about as believable as their most recent claim that work will start, next year, on the power station itself.
For more information visit our website at:www.batterseapowerstation.org.uk
Battersea Power Station Community Group
From the Wandsworth Borough News, 15th March 2006
Council were too quick to accept reckless power station decision
From Richard Jones
SIR. Like many of your readers I have been following the sad sorry and perplexing story of Battersea Power Station for many years and, like many local residents, have been appalled at the way this impressive building has been so badly treated by its present owner, Parkview International, with the consent, it appears, of Wandsworth Borough Council.
I support your reporter, Sarah Halls, and members of the public who have written in to your paper who clearly value the building and oppose the reckless idea of demolishing its four iconic chimneys.
Since the power station ceased its operations in the early 1980's there has never been any suggestion that these chimneys were so unstable that they needed to be demolished. Now, suddenly, Parkview have applied for permission to knock these chimneys down and an Irish property developer, Ballymore Properties, appears on the scene.
What many people I have spoken to wonder is, where these two developments are related? Could there possibly be a secret agenda to destroy the chimneys before demolishing the whole building?
It is assumed this would increase the value of the site.
Like many people, I am deeply suspicious of the motives behind this demolition application and very much concerned that Wandsworth Council always seemed prepared to approve whatever the developers propose.
This takes place without any opposition from the Labour minority party. One wonders why the council's planning committee seems not to have considered more seriously the alternative report from highly qualified conservation engineers stating that it is perfectly possible to repair the chimneys, to a long-lasting condition, in situ.
RICHARD JONES Clapham Common West Side
From Wandsworth Borough News, 7th December 2005
From Brian Barnes
It is a shame to see your distinguished architecture critic Jonathan Glancey taken in by Parkview's PR (The power and the glory, July 11). Of course everybody in this part of London wants to see Battersea power station rescued and the site brought back into productive use. But this is just the last in a long line of planning applications from Parkview going back over 10 years that have gone nowhere. We fear that Parkview is merely proposing unrealisable projects while the value of the land increases and the power station crumbles. The proposed dismantling of the chimneys is unnecessary, while the building has been neglected over the past 12 years and valuable industrial archaeology lost.
We believe Parkview does not have the money to carry out this scheme, which is also lacking an environmental impact assessment. No UK development partner is going to enter a partnership on these terms.
If Glancey had looked beyond the hype and overblown architecture, he would find a deeply unattractive project that has no affordable housing anywhere on the 38-acre site, no decent jobs for local people and no credible public transport strategy, relying instead on 3,000 private car parking spaces and an Arup-designed pedestrian bridge.
BRIAN BARNES Battersea Power Station Community Group
From The Guardian, Wednesday 13th July 2005
Taking care of these rare birds
The security of peregrine falcons nesting on Battersea Power Station has been jeapordised by unnecessary publicity generated by Parkview International. ("Falcon quest", South London Press, January 6.)
Parkview has just erected a 55m high lattice tower on the riverbank next to Battersea Power Station. The company says the tower is necessary to rehouse a pair of peregrine falcons currently nesting on one of the chimneys in advance of the start of redevelopment works, which it claims will begin later this year. The erection of the tower has been reported in local and national press
These are rare birds and the only pair of peregrine falcons nesting in London. We are concerned that the mast is easy to climb and is now nationally identified and egg thieves will target the nest.
We say Parkview should redouble its efforts to ensure that the birds are safe. If the birds do move to the tower, Parkview should have 24 hour security posted at the base, which should be fenced off. The tower should get the same protection as Osprey nests.
We do not think it is necessary to move the birds at all. It would be a simple matter to repair each chimney in turn, incorporating specially designed nesting boxes in each. If this were done, the birds would cross from one chimney to the next. Being much higher up the building, these rare birds would also be much more secure.
BRIAN BARNES Chairman, Battersea Power Station Community Group
From South London Press, 6th February 2004
I write in response to the letter from Rumgay of Parkview International about the inclusion of Battersea Power Station on the World Monuments Fund's List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. (AJ 2.10.03)
Rumgay considers that English Heritage, as the government's advisor on national monuments, "is best placed to decide which are the most endangered". The trouble with this argument is that EH is no more convinced with Parkview's custodianship of Battersea Power Station than is the WMF. Battersea Power Station appears on E H's own register of buildings at risk, where its condition is described as "very bad".
As E H's six monthly inspection reports make clear, Parkview have done nothing beyond the most basic maintenance in over 10 years. Its programme proceeds at a snail's pace, casting doubt on the seriousness of their intentions to do development work. Enabling works, which have been going on since 2002, will take a further 12 months. Now it seems the main works will not start until 2005, continuing the 'year after next' line that Parkview have been putting out since the mid-90's.
It was because of this continual procrastination, while the condition of the building deteriorated, that Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) decided to nominate the building for inclusion on the World Monuments Fund's List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. BPSCG's application was sponsored by Alf Dubs, Lord Dubs of Battersea, and we are all very pleased that the WMF has decided to include the building on the list for the next two years.
In his recent speech to the WMF, Alf Dubs put forward the idea of a new deal for Battersea Power Station, in which Parkview surrender the freehold to a public interest trust. A trust organisation of this kind could go to the Lottery and other sources of funding not available to Parkview, and could arrange for repairs to be carried out. Parkview would have a lease on parts of Battersea Power Station and the surrounding site. However, large parts of the building would be freed up for public use.
With the task repairing Battersea Power Station seemingly beyond Parkview, the leaseback idea is worth investigating further. EH should perhaps commission a feasibility study, looking at the organisational structure of the new trust, likely sources of funding, and the works that would need to be done.
From the Architects' Journal, 16th October 2003
Station development still raises questions
Sir, The letter from Ian Rumgay of Parkview International (WBN January 17th) makes a number of misleading and inaccurate statements about the Battersea Power Station development, which should not be allowed to go unchallenged.
Firstly, Mr Rumgay talks about the "completion of the planning phase" as though Parkview have only recently arrived on the scene. In fact, Parkview have been in control of the Power Station since 1993 and have had full ownership since 1996.
Mr Rumgay talks about the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station being "on schedule", but does not mention the fact that the schedule keeps being postponed, and changes from year to year. In 1997, work was going to start in 1999. In 1999, it was 2000. Now the start date is 2004!
Mr Rumgay states that "Battersea Power Station is wholly owned by Parkview". This is also untrue. Parkview's financial reports to 31st March 2001state: "The company owns no land or buildings". In fact, the power station is owned by Halcyon Estates, a Parkview subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands.
When asked why Parkview's development partners have backed out, Mr Rumgay states: "there never have been any other backers". This is again untrue. Parkview have announced partnerships with a succession of blue chip companies in the last ten years. These have included: BAA, Really Useful Group, Warner Village Cinemas, and Cirque du Soleil. All of these have now pulled out.
Finally, Mr Rumgay claims that Parkview has "extensive assets" and "financing the project will not be an issue". This too is open to question. Parkview's financial reports to 31st March 2001, referred to above, shows a turnover of £7,697,000 with profits of just £941,000. Parkview has no track record of completing projects of the size of Battersea Power Station. Surely this is not a company about to carry out the largest redevelopment project in London?
Mr Rumgay's letter raises a series of further questions about Parkview's activities. Why has the project still not started after ten years? Why do the project start and finish date keep going backwards? Why has the ownership of Battersea Power Station been transferred offshore? Why will have all the blue chip companies involved backed out? And how will a company of such modest financial stature carry out the project on its own?
Only one man can supply the answers. Over to you Mr Rumgay!
From Wandsworth Borough News 7th February 2003
Restore power station to glory
I write re your report on Battersea Power Station ("Is plan powering on or station-ary", South London Press, August 9). It does seem strange that the power station still lies derelict after almost 20 years, whilst the rest of Wandsworth's riverside appears to be developed overnight! If land values crash again, I expect the power station will be abandoned and left to rot yet again. Should it ever re-open, I would like to see it used as an industrial museum (large enough to display steam engines etc), an arts centre, craft workshops, theatre and cinemas. Returning it to its former glory would be a popular attraction in itself.
Letter from BPSCG member to the South London Press, 16th August 2002
Parkview and conservation
Sir, Ian Rumgay states that Parkview International is “committed to conservation” at Battersea Power Station. (Letters Friday 16th March.)
Mr Rumgay is absolutely right. Parkview’s commitment to conservation is amply demonstrated by events since they took a controlling interest in Battersea Power Station in 1993.
Parkview’s commitment to conservation at Battersea Power Station began in 1994 when they had the magnificent coal conveyor broken up and sold for scrap.
An inspection report by English Heritage in 1996 is testament to Parkview’s ongoing commitment to conservation: describing widespread neglect of the Power Station, including irreversible damage to the tiling in the Battersea ‘A’ turbine hall.
Last year, Parkview’s commitment to conservation was further demonstrated by the fact that the famous bronze doors to the Directors’ Entrance were found lying unprotected on the floor of the entrance hall, during a visit by Battersea Power Station Community Group.
Only last week, the senior vice president of Parkview himself reaffirmed Parkview’s commitment to conservation when he told BPSCG members that repair works on the Power Station will not start for another two years at least.
And if anyone was still in any doubt about Parkview’s commitment to conservation, they need only consider that they have successfully obtained listed building consent to demolish the Grade II listed Battersea Water Pumping Station, as you reported on 2nd March.
What more could we ask! With a commitment to conservation as strong as Parkview’s, Londoners can rest assured that the future of Battersea Power Station is in safe hands.
From Wandsworth Borough News 23rd March 2001
Public debate on power station?
Sir, Cllr Vivian insists on using emotive language to describe our community group, calling us "the outfit" and "secretive", what is his real problem with us?
Is he worried that while we are living and working in Battersea, rarely out of sight of the power station from our home and office windows, he rarely sets foot in Battersea even though he has been elected to serve the Queenstown area.
Is he worried that we actually gauge the mood of local people through our meetings, forums, bulletins and web sites far more effectively than the Conservative Party can. Our comments are based on up-to-date knowledge not a feeble public consultation of three years ago.
That consultation by his council was criticised at the time for being no more than the statutory minimum, i.e. a three week time scale, an exhibition in the library (which was the developers' own information, not the council's) and a leaflet drop to 9,600 letter boxes.
Hardly appropriate for one of the largest developments in central London that will have a massive traffic impact over a wide area.
There again Cllr Vivian gives false information. The consultation was for the development plan for the 11 acres of land surrounding the power station not for the building itself.
The present developer has taken over the John Broome plan of 1986 for a theme park in the power station.
In the report to the planning committee of March 17 1997 the results of that consultation is quantified; 215 people visited the exhibition with only 63 in favour of the developers' proposals and there were 104 replies from the public and groups by letter and e-mail with only 16 in favour.
I would like to take this opportunity to challenge Cllr Vivian to a public debate on the issue of the power station at a Battersea venue, with an invitation to the general public, to discuss alternative ways forward for redevelopment and we will soon discover who truly represents local opinion on this subject.
From Wandsworth Borough News 24th March 2000
Powerhouse site is there to find
Sir, Councillor Richard Vivian says that Battersea Power Station Community Group’s web site, www.batterseapowerstation.com, gives no information about BPSCG, its membership, meetings, or contact details.
This is curious, as all of this information is freely available on the web site. One can only conclude form this that Councillor Vivian has only recently discovered the Internet, and is still having difficulty finding his way around.
Let me offer Councillor Vivian some assistance. Having found our home page, www.batterseapowerstation.com, he needs to click on the bottom right icon - "feedback". There he will find details of how to join the group, where to send his donation, and how to contact us.
The web site gives full details of BPSCG’s criticisms of the conduct of Wandsworth Council and successive developers in regard to Battersea Power Station, together with a whole series of initiatives and counter proposals of our own.
Anyone who wants upto date, accurate information on Battersea Power Station should look on our web site or e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
From Battersea Guardian 23rd March 2000
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