Review: Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station Walking Tour, 6th Aug 2013

Hosted by Nine Elms Delivery Team, London Borough of Lambeth, Greater London Authority and Battersea Power Station Development Company.

The tour began in the Nine Elms Delivery Team offices which are nestled in a rabbit warren of corridors above New Covent Garden Flower Market. An impressive scale model of the extensive Nine Elms regeneration area kept everyone occupied while we waited for the tour to begin.

The first person to speak was Keith Trotter from the Nine Elms Delivery Team, he began by giving an overview of the regeneration area. It’s one of the largest regeneration programmes in London covering 195 hectares and 26 interconnected sites. The programme aims to deliver 25,000 new permanent jobs, contributing up to £7.9 billion to London’s economy as well as 16,000 new homes in a variety of tenures and typologies and 6.4million sq ft of commercial space. The £1bn finance package for the Northern Line extension from GLA, Lambeth and Wandsworth was key to providing the infrastructure needed to support the growth being planned. Buildings already confirmed include the US Embassy, the Dutch Embassy and the first Chinese owned and run hotel outside China.
The second speaker Iago Griffiths from the Borough of Lambeth then spoke about the regeneration area from the local authority perspective. Over the years piecemeal development in the Nine Elms area has created a neighbourhood that is not designed for people. For Lambeth it was essential to create a new district centre with high quality well connected spaces and streets. One of the biggest challenges to overcome is the Vauxhall gyratory which during the morning peak hours sees over 6,000 vehicles, a similar number pass through during evening rush hour. Lambeth would like to see a new pedestrian friendly high street created where the current bus and tube stations sit in the middle of the gyratory. This would require the removal of the gyratory and the reinstatement of two way traffic flows which would be a highly complex operation, however Lambeth seem keen to make it happen.

The walking tour then departed and the group headed down Nine Elms Lane, stopping at various points to hear from the speakers and answer questions. A new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists is planned to connect the south side of the river to St Georges Square Garden in Pimlico, and a riverside walk will eventually run unbroken between Vauxhall Bridge and Chelsea Bridge.

After much anticipation we arrived at the power station and were greeted by Gordon Adams who is head of planning at the Battersea Power Station Development Company. After being kitted out with high visibility jackets and Ugg style safety boots, we were led across a vast expanse of open land to the power station itself. The building is one of the largest brick built structures in Europe, and its sheer size hits you as you stand beneath its majestic chimneys. We went inside and were led up to Control Room A which remains in good condition with controls and dials for different parts of London, under current plans this room will become a restaurant retaining the original fittings and fixtures. The lavish art deco interior gives you a real sense of the buildings importance when it was built, although the second half of the building was constructed post World War II and Control Room B is apparently far less grand. We then headed to the new riverside pavilion for the final presentations.

The third speaker of the evening Gordon Adams then gave us a progress update and started off by saying ‘nothing happens slowly at Battersea Power Station’. The new owners are SP Setia, Sime Darby and Employee Provident Fund. The architect is Rafael Vinoly and planning permission has been granted for 3,444 residential units, 2,897,067 sq ft of commercial space and 80,000sqm of public open space. The site area is 16.13 Ha, and the development will support 25,000 construction jobs and 15,754 operational jobs. The four chimneys of the power station are due to be replaced, this work will be carried out in stages. We were then shown a short video by the architect explaining how the new buildings around the power station are designed to frame the iconic building.

The final speaker Colin Wilson from the Greater London Authority then spoke about how the regeneration of Battersea Power Station and the surrounding land was planning led. It was the GLA who initially commissioned a masterplan to clearly communicate their vision for the area. Colin went on to describe how each developer had started by creating their own masterplan, and subsequently each had to be reminded about the GLA vision and strongly encouraged to work with it. One by one the developers have bought into the overall masterplan and the result is 26 interconnected development sites that relate to one another, and that together create a whole new district which works. There is even a linear park that runs all the way through the district which if the mayors cycling ambassador gets his way will be home to an attractive traffic free cycle route, let’s hope it happens.

Tom Murray-Willis

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