A roller coaster for Battersea Power station?

Author: Cyril Richert

Paris-based practice atelier Zundel Cristea (AZC) has won the competition (results announced mid-March 2013) to transform the Battersea power station into a museum. The proposal is based on the Parisian Cité de l’Architecture model, and will present a panorama of architecture and cultural heritage from the Middle Ages to today.

The most notable feature of the project is the integration of a giant roller coaster in the 40,000 sqm of the site, providing a new perspective to the area and the city of London. Continue reading

Nine Elms: some pictures of the project

Author: Cyril Richert

To complete our previous article on the final project in Nine Elms last July and the schemes around the Battersea Power station, I have collected some screen-shot from the movie displayed on the official website to present the project of redevelopment (click on the photos to see bigger).

You can read also comments on the video on Cllr James Cousins’ blog.

In a recent article published by the Wandsworth Guardian, the Mayor of London said that plans to redevelop Battersea Power Station have met with the broad approval, but the scheme needs to offer more affordable housing. Boris Johnson told Real Estate Opportunities (REO), which owns the iconic station site, said the scheme did not comply with the London Plan and he expects the “maximum reasonable amount” of affordable housing.

The opportunity area of Nine Elms

Author: Brian Barnes
[Battersea Power Station Community Group]

Firstly the Mayor talks about the downturn and the fact that the plans are going to take decades to come. What of the decades that have passed, 26 years since the Battersea Power Station was first planned for redevelopment with the promise of thousands of jobs.

It has been such a long time that the HMSO award winning building has been built, become surplus and now demolished.

In the early 1980s the then chief planning officer Mike Tapsell tried to push through a development brief for thousands of homes in Nine Elms.

Outside Wandsworth Borough, in Lambeth, there are flats built at Vauxhall bridge most are luxury flats and a 40 story 600 feet Green Giant block is proposed.

Otherwise the luxury flats at Chelsea bridge are the only others just coming to completion decades later.

There are a massive 3,700 flats proposed at Battersea Power Station all expensive to justify the renovation of the listed building.

Mayor Boris wants 16,000 but where will they be? Covent Garden has a new plan for a food market with 3 giant towers up to 43 stories but the US embassy will not be residential.

I fear that parks and gardens will be built upon to realise these targets making housing estates in the area even denser. For social housing space will be found on existing estates at Patmore and Doddington and Rollo. Already a primary school (John Milton) has been demolished to make way for flats at the Nine Elms Thessaly Road junction.

There is a proposal for 30 story blocks on the gas works next to the Dogs Home which are shelved until the downturn reverses.

None of the large areas of land have been developed with housing only small strips along the river and above Savona Estate are new build with housing.

Therefore it looks like the only housing planned is on the REO land requiring 12,300 to reach the Mayor’s target.

I hope that there will be shopping recreation and a wide riverside walk to give the new residents facilities there might be need of a school?

Local people are very fed up with the time that things take due mainly to speculators holding land back till such time as they can make huge profits.

It looks set to take nearly half a century from the time the Power Station closed in 1983 for the nine Elms area to be developed.

The tube is a total red hearing and will delay the rejuvenation even longer. I don’t think the Mayor said who would pay for the tube line. It is not REO, not The US embassy, not the offices at Vauxhall. He knows who will not be paying but does he say who will. I suppose it will be the taxpayer which does not include REO or the United States. Even Jane Ellison, Tory candidate for Battersea, has misgivings about funding for the Tube line in the latest edition of “In Touch”

Skyscrapers in New Covent Garden (Nine Elms)

Author: Cyril Richert

Invitation-NCGAThe New Covent Garden Authority has unveiled its plans to redevelop New Covent Garden in a Public Exhibition opening November 4th (preview from Monday, 2nd).

The Garden is a 57 acre site in Nine Elms in the London Borough of Wandsworth, immediately adjacent to the border of the London Borough of Lambeth.New Covent Garden Market is the largest fresh produce market in the UK. It is a wholesale market with almost 240 tenants including traditional wholesalers of fruit, vegetables and flowers and the highest concentration of catering distributors in the country. The Market is also home to over 30 Flower Market wholesalers.

The redevelopment of New Covent Market is taken place within the bigger plan covering Nine Elms and battersea Power Station. It aims to improve the design back in 1974, which shows several issues:

  • Ageing buildings: the new market will provide modern materials and proper provision for IT into each unit.
  • Inflexible trading units: the new units will be of modular construction to allow maximum flexibility in their size.
  • Poor circulation: internal road, parking and delivery facilities will be improved to reduce the potential for congestion.
  • Out-of-date servicing: consideration is being given to the provision of centralised energy and recycling facilities.
  • Drainage issues: prevent flooding and provide proper drainage facilities.
  • Too spread out: the market will use less land, thus freeing space to pay for the redevelopment without public fund (making available the 10 acres of the current Flower Market site, which will be relocated in the main site).

Private development

The main area proposed for redevelopment is the current Flower Market site (10 acres), to include:

  • Two new public squares
  • New shops and commercial space
  • 1,800 new homes

Buildings alongside Nine Elms Lane will range from 8 to 10 storeys, arranged around courtyard gardens open to the river with wonderful views of Chelsea, Westminster and the City.

To the East, they propose three buildings of varied height, the tallest of which could be 46 storeys in height (one of the three taller buildings could also include a new hotel).

We understand that planning policy specifically supports taller buildings in some areas of Nine Elms redevelopment. However we could raise some objections regarding the size of the tallest buildings:

1. Impact on the House of Parliament: Depending on whether those skyscrapers are residential or mix-used offices, the height will be between 155 and 200m. It will echo the concerns raised with the previous plan to raise a 250m glass tower beside Battersea Power station; at the time, opponents (including English Heritage) said: “The impact of the new tower on the Houses of Parliament and the Westminster World Heritage Site will be disastrous“.

2. Public inquiry: The UK government has been criticised by UNESCO recently for failing to protect World Heritage Sites from unsympathetic development. The Tower of London and the Westminster World Heritage Sites – both threatened by new tall buildings – were singled out by UNESCO for special mention. Following UNESCO’s criticisms, planning procedures are being improved to give World Heritage Sites in the UK greater protection (see also the Battersea Bulletin of November last year who campaigned against the Dyson Tower). There will be tighter regulations for proposals having an impact on World Heritage Sites, which means that undoubtedly the proposed skyscrapers for New Covent Garden will be decided by public inquiry.

In addition, King Sturge will be acting as planning advisor for the scheme. Some might remember that they over-looked the application for the two 42-storey towers at CJ station. Are they trying to re-use their failed planning?

New Covent garden redevelopment: Aerial view-annoted

Vauxhall TowerThe proposed skyscrapers might seat beside the Vauxhall tower (180m – 48 floors) which already received planning permission from John Prescott, UK’s former deputy Prime Minister (against the advice of his own civil servants). It is important to remember that at the time, the proposal was only supported by Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, and the government’s Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment-CABE. As it was facing strong opposition from everywhere else, Livingston went to threaten Lambeth Council to make legal action if they refuse his decision.

Keith Garner, from the Battersea Power Station Community Group, said:

This area is extremely sensitive to tall buildings due to the curve of the river, and even a building a third of the height of the Dyson (250m) will be seen above the Palace of Westminster. So there actually needs to be very strict controls on heights here.

Whilst there should be height controls along the river frontage and on the lowland, there may be a case for intensification of development away from the river and further up the hill towards Wandsworth Road. But this would need to be tested out by means of a topographical study.[1]

Peter Deakins (who presented plans for Clapham Junction area) is showing similar concerns, saying:

As far as can be established, no local Authority has provided detailed plans for all of the possible changes to the overall physical framework of the whole Nine Elms area that may be possible or desirable and this must be a cause of considerable concern.

After all, the area – stretching as it does from Vauxhall Railway Station to Battersea Park and including the Battersea Power Station – is as big as St James’s Park. Many existing and probable future urban features and needs exist and these could, and should, be properly exploited by being incorporated within very thorough overall plans.

Approval of new skyscrapers in New Covent Garden area will not only make a fool of Boris Johnson who said previously: “When I look at some of the plans for the 27 phallocratic towers that Ken wants to erect in the suburbs, I wonder whether we have learned anything from the experience of the last 50 years.“ It will also encourage the use of Vauxhall for developing 150-200m skyscrapers, changing definitely the London skyline in the next 10 years.

[1] In order to help the Council of Wandsworth to define some guidelines on tall buildings, we have published a joint statement on planning policy on tall buildings in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

Nine Elms – final project?

Author: Cyril Richert

As reported by Wandsworth Guardian in June, the project for Nine Elms and Battersea Power-station redevelopment evolved again. Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings (the owner of the building) said:

The [eco dome] scheme was the wrong time, the transport costings were not right and the plan was massively over designed

Real Estate Opportunities (REO) unveils another design (again!) at a public exhibition in June. It says this project is more financially viable than the last and includes a design that “respects” Sir Gilbert Scott’s Grade II* masterpiece.

So out the eco-dome; out the curvy glass roof too.

Proposal for Battersea Power Station

Despite nobody is highly questioning the opportunity to construct tall building in the area of Nine Elms (but not taller than the chimneys of the power station), critics claim the density and proximity of the terraces to the station is inappropriate.

The Battersea Society said that the new housing must include a proper share of affordable housing and family accommodations. Furthermore it supports a boost for public transport (including the idea of a tram) and emphasises the importance of creating attractive surroundings at ground level, so that it will be a pleasure to walk and cycle through Nine Elms. It urges Wandsworth Council and the Mayor of London to rule out the area as a location for a major shopping centre as it might kill off other centres(you can think of Knightsbridge but also Clapham Junction or Brixton).

[More information, including a short film, on the developer’s website]

No tower for Battersea Power station, finally

Author: Cyril Richert

A few weeks ago the developers unveiled the news proposal for Battersea Power Station redevelopment after a plan including a 250 meter skyscraper was scrapped.

According to the article in the Evening Standard:

“The latest proposal for the £4 billion project shows a glass roof curving over Giles Gilbert Scott’s Grade II listed building, with a series of medium-rise blocks on either side.

Crucially for fans of the structure, its famous chimneys are to be left intact. In the previous, rejected design, a huge eco-chimney and an accompanying dome were meant to contain a wind turbine for energy and provide heating for the office blocks, making it carbon-neutral.

The developers have now redesigned the scheme with Uruguayan architect Rafael Vinoly as part of a public consultation by Wandsworth Council on the regeneration of the Nine Elms area.

Rob Tincknell, managing director of developer Treasury Holdings, told the magazine Building Design: “The site will be transformed into the first large-scale, urban, carbon-neutral development in the UK. It will provide around 13,000 jobs and 3,500 homes and a new six-acre riverside park with direct access to Battersea Park.”

The scheme has also received a cautious welcome from Save Britain’s Heritage. Secretary William Palin said: “The positive thing is the space in front of the power station – that’s important. But the curved roof looks incongruous – the wonderful thing about the power station is the angularity of it. I don’t think it complements the building.”

The development also includes extending the Northern Line to the site by 2015 – the first privately funded extension of the Tube.”

It is interesting to remember the comments made by Rob Tincknell before last project was rejected:  “it is either the go-ahead for the glass tower, or the power station may be doomed“. As I was writing back in February, apparently he has changed his mind and decided to compromise… and oh surprise, after all it was not impossible to make a project including medium-rise buildings, none of them exceeding the size of the chimneys of the Power station.



Morality: never believe developers!

Plan for a huge tower beside Battersea Power Station scrapped?

Author: Cyril Richert

According to the Evening Standard today:

Plans to build a giant glass chimney B rising out of an “eco-dome” at Battersea power station have been scrapped.

The chimney would have been one of the tallest structures in London, twice the height of the Gherkin building in the City, and contained a wind turbine.

However, residents, public bodies and the Mayor all objected to the proposal – the central showpiece for the £4billion redevelopment of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Grade II-listed building which has been out of action since 1982.

The developer, Treasury Holdings, and architect, Uruguayan-born Rafael Viñoly, have been forced to go back to the drawing board. It is thought the height of the tower will be reduced to bring it in line with those in Westminster and the dome will be replaced with a series of canopies.

I would rather be a bit careful and not being over enthusiastic. Last time that the developers went back to the drawing board they removed 50 meters, from 300m. And Battersea campaigners told me that everybody knew at that time that it won’t be accepted. So, they might scrapp another 50m… and try again, until everyone is fed-up campaigning against and gives up. Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings, presenting the project to Boris Johnson said previously: “it is either the go-ahead for the glass tower, or the power station may be doomed“. Apparently he has changed his mind and decided to compromise further…

We have previously commented the story in Another case of blackmail in Battersea

Another case of blackmail in Battersea

Author: Cyril Richert

According to an article in the Evening Standard before Christmas:

Battersea tower - Evening Standard 18/12/08PLANS to build a 300-metre glass tower next to Battersea Power Station have been scaled back after opposition from campaigners and heritage groups.The tower formed the centrepiece of a £4billion scheme to restore and redevelop the derelict Grade II*-listed generator and the surrounding area.” (click on the article beside to read in full).

The Grade II listed building was bought by Treasury Holdings a few years ago. The developers have said they have taken on board the comments made and scrapped 50 meters of the 300-metre original glass tower. Is it enough? Well, it will still be 250 meters high, making it the tallest building in not only London, but also Great Britain. And the building will still be poking over the Palace of Westminster, listed as a World Heritage Site.

Once again the choice is very simple, according to Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings, presenting the project to Boris Johnson: it is either the go-ahead for the glass tower, or the power station may be doomed.

But as the architecture critic comments in the newspaper: “Is it good to build a new Tube connection to Battersea? Or to build a low energy development? Or to rescue Battersea Power Station from decay? Yes, yes and yes. Is it necessary to build a 250-metre tower to achieve these ends? No“.

The same thing could be applied to Clapham Junction station [1]. The same thing was valid for Putney’s project…

Skyscapers in London - Comparison of sizeClick on the image to see bigger

Why on earth are 4 of the 15 current huge tower block projects submitted in Wandsworth nowadays? Is the Council in favour of pharaonic projects and huge tower blocks? Is the Council making a policy of not spending a penny for public development and financing them all with developer fantasy? Maybe it is time for the Council of Wandsworh to clarify its policy on the issue and ask clearly its constituents their view? Isn’t this what is called democracy?

[1] Apparently, there would be another plan to be submitted to the Council to erect another tower block (about 15 storey?) 50 meters away, in front of PCS, at the bottom of Mossbury Road, for a hotel.