Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Problems stack up at Battersea

RICHARD WARREN in London

Ambitious plans to redevelop Battersea Power Station into one of London's biggest mixed-use schemes have been delayed because the popular landmark's four enormous chimneys must be replaced.

The chimneys have not been used since the plant closed in 1975, but a survey conducted a year ago discovered that corrosion has made them unsafe.

Wandsworth Borough Council has given developer Parkview International (London) two years to demolish the chimneys and erect replicas.

Parkview is wholly owned by the Hwang family of Hong Kong.

The council hopes to see the 12 million ($164.51 million) job completed in 10 to 11 months. Work on redeveloping the station buildings will not begin until the chimneys are rebuilt.

The power station, set on a 15-hectare brownfield site, will be at the centre of a 1.1 billion entertainment, shopping and accommodation project, with plans for an auditorium, two hotels, 700 apartments, a product showcase area and offices.

It is the biggest overseas-owned development project in London, according to Parkview.

Plans for the site, which Parkview has owned for 12 years, have been beset by delays, with the completion date now pushed back to the end of 2009.

Company communications director Ian Rumgay said there had been problems with red tape, local opposition to the plans and structural issues.

Delays had also been caused by London Electricity's tenure of one of the plant's buildings and the need to buy up surrounding land and clear asbestos and other chemical materials, he said, adding that Parkview International president Victor Hwang had sought revisions to the plans.

Mr Hwang's latest idea is for a staircase to run between the two turbine halls of the power station, leading up to a 2.5-hectare observation area.

Parts of the scheme still require planning permission. Other issues include objections by rail authorities to plans to run a rail shuttle service from the site.

Although many local people and organisations back the scheme, some, such as Battersea Power Station Community Group, oppose the development.

They are worried that Parkview wants to demolish the power station, a claim hotly denied by the developer.

"We'd be mad. The reason why we are here is because of this building. It is a great marketing icon," Mr Rumgay said.

The community group's legal actions have resulted in a 12-month judicial review of the scheme and forced the developer to complete a new environmental impact survey, which took nine months.

"It means needless distraction and inevitably delays," Mr Rumgay said.

Delays have prevented the developer from raising the funds needed to redevelop the famous landmark.

Ken Dytor, chief executive of regeneration specialist Urban Catalyst, said complex, multipurpose schemes often took longer to complete than expected.

"Getting built on time is the biggest problem for developers. Funders need confidence that the developer can deliver on time."


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Published in the South China Morning Post. Copyright (C) 2005. All rights reserved.