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BPSCG member Keith Garner made this contribution to the "Be Our Guest" section of the Wandsworth Borough News, 11th April 2007

The new owner of Battersea Power Station, Real Estate Opportunities (REO), has announced the appointment of New York based architect Rafael Viñoly as the new “masterplanner” for the site. Viñoly beat off local architects Foster & Partners and commercial giants SOM to secure the commission.

The masterplan by the previous owners, Parkview, took three years to produce from 1993-96. Parkview did nothing to look after the building in this time. This was followed by 10 years of procrastination, with Parkview eventually walking off with £250 million of speculative gain, made at the expense of some of the poorest people in the Borou gh.

So with their talk of a “masterplan”, is REO just another land speculator intent on further procrastination and neglect? Clearly, REO needs to demonstrate that they are serious about refurbishing Battersea Power Station and redeveloping the site in ways that would offer some benefit to the locality. Some big gestures of goodwill are necessary at this time.

REO should start by announcing that they are abandoning Parkview’s plan to demolish and rebuild the four chimneys. Instead, REO should start a phased programme of repairs - roofs, drainage etc - commencing immediately. REO should also throw open the site to the public: for instance building the river walk, and setting up an interim uses initiative.

Most importantly of all, REO needs to go about the redevelopment in small achievable phases, starting with Battersea Power Station itself. In this way, people in Queenstown ward will be able to see progress in the short term, and start to get real benefits in terms of jobs and increased economic activity.

As part of phase one, REO should create a venue for the new “Energy Technologies Institute” (ETI), which is being set up by the government to do research into combating climate change. Battersea Power Station would be a particularly apt location for the ETI, being the site of an early combined heat and power plant in the 50’s, when hot water from the ‘B’ Station was pumped under the Thames to heat the new Churchill Gardens housing estate.

The ‘A’ Station switch house would be an ideal location for the ETI and could be could be converted in 12-18 months, the timescale the government requires. REO should offer a lease on the switch house to the ETI, either free or on very favourable terms.

In association with the ETI, there could be an “Energy Centre” in the ‘A’ Station turbine hall, possibly in association with the Science Museum, as an annexe to their South Kensington complex. In this way, there would be free public access to the historic interior of Scott’s and Halliday’s magnificent temple of power production.

The proposal to locate the ETI at Battersea has wide political support, including Alf Dubs, the former MP, Jenny Jones of the Green Group on the GLA and Mayor Ken Livingstone himself. It now needs Wandsworth Council to get behind it too to make it happen.

 

 


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