Battersea power station has time and again proved a poisoned chalice for developers trying to breathe new life into the derelict south London site.
Battersea power station has time and again proved a poisoned chalice for developers trying to breathe new life into the derelict south London site. Rows of luxury apartment blocks have sprung up along the Thames not far away, offering coveted river views. So the obvious (and most lucrative) thing to do would be to build luxury flats on the 15 hectare (38 acre) site. The problem is the power station itself: it blocks the river views on most of the site.
It is no surprise there is growing talk of demolition.
The power station It goes on sale again next month, with an expected price tag of £300m to £400m, after the latest scheme, by Irish developer Treasury Holdings, collapsed. Chelsea Football Club is known to be interested in the sale but it is difficult to see how the club could pull it off – a new stadium next to the power station? According to calculations by property consultancy EC Harris, the site would be worth almost £500m more if the protected landmark building, with its distinct four white chimneys, could simply be torn down.
EC Harris calculates that after demolition, and based on current density plans for housing, a developer could build 1,200 apartments where the building stands and sell them for an extra £470m. Flattening Europe’s largest brick structure and its four chimneys would save estimated renovation costs of about £500m, roughly equivalent to the cost of demolition and apartment construction combined. Demolition could only take place if the building’s listed status is removed.
But Keith Garner of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, which wants to save the building, asks: “How is it that so many other large industrial buildings of historic interest have been given new leases of life over the last 20 years or so – in the same time frame that three private owners have failed at Battersea?” He pointed to Tate Modern, Dean Clough Mills in Halifax and a former Fiat factory in Turin.
Architect Terry Farrell and Partners has drawn up a compromise proposal that would see the building left largely untouched and surrounded by a park. This scheme would avoid the need for extensive restoration and only cost between £25m and £50m. “Given it’s been derelict for so long it’s time for reality. We are given to understand such a proposal would have the backing of English Heritage and the Wandsworth planners,” Neil Bennett, a partner at the firm, told Reuters.
The power station, whose chimneys have been a part of London’s skyline for nearly 80 years and graced Pink Floyd’s 1977 Animals album cover, is still an imposing building and far from being beyond repair, playing host to numerous art, theatre and other events. It would be a great shame to knock it down.
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