“Power To The People?”: The Remarkable Transformation Of North Battersea:

Are you a fan of the English rock singer, “Sting”? If so, you might like to know that (according to a report in the “Evening Standard” on 7th November) he and his wife Trudie Styler have just bought a “luxury apartment”in London. But not in Chelsea, Mayfair, Barnes or even Richmond. Instead, they have chosen as their base in the UK capital one of the 1,305 flats and penthouses in the “Phase Three “ section of the Battersea Power Station Development project Sting has promised to be a “well-behaved neighbour” – but anyone contemplating living next door should also be aware that (as pointed out by Hilary Osborne in “The Guardian”), the prices at the BPSD “are not for the faint-hearted”: A studio there will cost £495,000; a flat with one-bedroom: £590,000, with two (£1.2 million), three (£1.9 million), four (£3.2 million). Enquiries for penthouses are categorised as “POA”(Price On Application), though Osborne has predicted that some of them “could go on the market at £30 million each, compounding warnings that the booming :London property sector is becoming the preserve of a moneyed elite”.

The BPSD Company (owned by a consortium of Malaysian investors) has committed itself to ensuring that at least 564 of the 3,992 new homes on the 42 acre site will be “affordable”, but even some of these (columnist Kate Allen noted in the “Financial Times on 24th October) could require an outlay of around £340,000 –  which is still somewhat beyond the means of the “average London worker”. Rob Tincknell, the BPSDC’s Chief Executive officer, has acknowledged that “the power station is a London building that people feel very passionate about and it would be totally wrong to have it sold off to people who are just storing cash in the UK and not living there”. This echoed the concern expressed on the BBC Business News website in April that “rich foreign buyers are squeezing out local people” and that there is “no way normal Londoners can live there”. The BBC quoted figures compiled by the global real estate consultancy Frank Knight that “during the two years up to June 2013, 69% of the purchasers of new buildings in central London were not British”.

This unease as to who exactly will comprise the majority of the residents at the BPSD will not be entirely allayed by the visit of the Company’s executives during November to (among others) Beijing, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, New York and Shanghai – even though the purported main objective of this “world tour” is to highlight the commercial opportunities that the BPSD presents for leisure operators and prospective retail tenants. It is nevertheless “crystal clear” to journalist Simona Sikimic on the “London Loves Business” website that “big things are coming to Battersea”. What until now has been considered as “a sleepy hamlet south of the river is changing irreversibly” – and this (she emphasizes) will also have an impact on nearby areas: “As the transformation unfolds, scores of shops, boutiques and new offices will move in and set up. House prices for miles will start rising and there will be plenty of investment opportunities”.

In his foreword to the BPSD’s “Community Charter”, London Mayor Boris Johnson declares that “Battersea Power Station’s revamp is now sparking the wider rejuvenation of a once forgotten, neglected part of the capital”. In addition to the 3,992 new homes, the BPSDC’s “Master Plan” envisages “1.62 million sq.ft. of office space, three hotels, 1.56 million sq.ft of commercial space (“including more than 250 retail, food and beverage outlets”), 3,346 spaces for car parking and 8,340 for cycles, a six acre park, two medical centres and ‘state-of-the-art’ leisure facilities (including a new 2,000 capacity riverside event venue within the power station”).

A central feature of Phase Three will be the pedestrian-only “Electric Boulevard”, ”where 40 retail units, 10 restaurants, a hotel and a gym will be situated”. The 355-metre long landscaped “Battersea Roof Gardens” will “sit on top of 15 residential storeys”, thereby providing residents and hotel guests with the opportunity to enjoy the skyline of London and the profile of the Power Station. The BPSDC foresees “Circus West”, the Phase One 866-unit residential building overlooking the Thames and opening for occupation in 2016,  becoming “London’s new riverside village, where you’ll find (for example) the florist, the baker, the butcher as well as a selection of high quality restaurants and a village pub”. The BPSDC is part-funding an extension of the Northern Line which will provide two new underground stations at Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms – the area between which the US and Dutch embassies will be re-locating. Ravi Govinda, the leader of Wandsworth Council, is hoping that this will eventually lead to “a second-stage extension taking the Northern Line all the way to Clapham Junction”.

Battersea Power Station, designed by the British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, dates back to 1935. It generated electricity for London until the 1980’s, since when (observed the Daily Mail correspondent Amanda Williams in April), this “best-loved but derelict landmark” has been considered as a venue for a Disneyland, a nightclub, or as a new stadium for Chelsea Football Club”. It became famous around the world (says ‘finance.yahoo.com’) “after appearing on the front cover of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album ‘Animals’ and also featured in The Beatles film ‘Help’ (1965), The King’s Speech (2010) and the Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises’(2012) ” What will happen to the “four iconic 103-metre chimneys”- whose steel reinforcements (states the BPSDC, as quoted by Williams) “are corroding and the concrete cracking and disintegrating?”.  The BPSDC has announced that, with the agreement of “English Heritage” and Wandsworth Borough Council, the chimneys “will be dismantled and rebuilt, using the same techniques and materials, so that they will continue to dominate the skyline for generations to come. The work on this began in August and is due to be completed by 2016. DSC06039DSC06036DSC06033DSC06034DSC06040DSC06032

Filed under: Society | Posted on November 24th, 2014 by Colin D Gordon

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