Author: Susan Lofthouse
Planning application 2019/2488 is proposing the erection of a temporary building in (sic) the British Genius Site up to a Maximum Height of 12.4 metres (current height 9.5 metres) for a period of 4 years ending on 1st October 2023 (to be used for a variety of events in the Park.
Battersea Park is a Grade II listed Park, which, since its creation in the mid 19th Century, has been managed by various organisations such as the LCC (London County Council), the GLC (Greater London Council), and when that closed down, passing to the management of Wandsworth Borough Council. It is very important to understand this, since the Council does not own the Park.
The Evolution building is used for a wide variety of events, from antiques and affordable art fairs, food fairs, black and white balls, corporate events and celebrations. In general, these are either private events, or else, pay to enter. Evolution provides free parking for organizers and guests, cars and coaches, as well as additional pay and display parking within a minute walk of the venue. It has a meeting capacity of 3500, and a catering capacity of 4000.
It was erected for the first time in 2001, although a large structure known to park users as the white tent, preceded it. In 2016 it was reopened to reveal “a brand new look and the ability to host events in a whole new way”. Temporary permission of two years continued to be applied for and granted.
So why, then, is there a Planning Application (2019/2488) to raise the height of the structure by some 3 metres at its highest point? Why has an application been put in to extend the “temporary” period to 4 years? We are told that it will enable even more diverse events and spectacles, and that by only dismantling and rigging every 4 years, it will reduce the carbon footprint.
However, since the structure will be taller, there will be more prefabricated units to take into storage, so in all probability, any saving will be swallowed by the increased number of journeys for the new structure. If the new structure encourages even more visitors, cars, technical vehicles, and catering vans, then there will be precious little difference. Furthermore, there is a very real fear that they will no longer apply for renewed temporary permission, and the structure will become permanent. Why?
Over the past years the Park “lost” the One O’Clock club, its adjoining facilities, and the Adventure Playground. With the British Genius Site being given over to Evolution, funfairs were being sited on the Boules Area; apart from anything else, this did not do the grass any good. And there were complaints about the noise. Last Autumn, and returning again this year, a “yoga” event was given 4 acres of lawn near the Pump House, as well as the Bowling Green, on which appeared tents, domes, stalls, and portaloos. The rigging started on the Thursday and the de-rigging was finished on Sunday afternoon. The noise from the stage was very difficult to escape. Vehicles used by film companies frequently cover the Western Carriageway; a private company held its barbecue event on the Boules Area.
Enough is enough. If you feel that this new application is the proverbial thin end, then send in your objection, it is not too late (up to July 16th, 60 objections have been received – and 1 support).
In their newsletter, the Battersea Park Action Group (#4, July 2019) lists reasons for objections:
- This could lead to intrusive events such as LoveBox, Wireless
- There would be a bigger footfall, and more vehicles, both from visitors and from technical and catering vehicles.
- Increased carbon footprint.
- The building already encroaches.
- It sets a precedent for even more expansion
- Noise considerations. There have already been complaints about the fairs.
- Any saving will be eclipsed by the extra visitors, cars and vehicles.
- We could end up by seeing a permanent structure.
- WBC does not own the Park; it manages it
- We have already lost green space to a restaurant, a putting green, Go Ape.
- Events that originally went on the BG Site now end up on the grass areas.
- There will be fewer/no fallow periods.