Farrell plan for Battersea Power Station would see parts of building demolished but retain distinctive four chimneys
As the deadline looms for bids on the 40-acre Battersea Power Station site in south London on Friday lunchtime, Sir Terry Farrell, architect of Thameside showpieces the MI6 building and Charing Cross station, hopes to interest developers in his radical £25m proposal.
Among the bidders is an Indian consortium called BPS Acquisition, which has looked at Farrell’s plan and the consented scheme drawn up by New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly, and talked to heritage groups.
The Grade II listed power station, which is twice as big as the former Bankside power station that became Tate Modern (both designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott), has stood empty since being decommissioned three decades ago. Numerous proposals to revamp it have failed, leading some to dub it a “poisoned chalice”.
A community group led by local architect Keith Garner and mural painter Brian Barnes proposes to turn over the landmark brick building to a trust with an endowment from the new owners to fund repairs. The trust would be able to raise money from the lottery and other sources not available to a commercial developer.
Meanwhile, Farrell’s firm is busy putting together a planning application for a scheme that would see parts of the building demolished but retain the distinctive four white chimneys and the walls, surrounding the building by a park. This would avoid the need for a full-scale refurbishment and cost between £25m and £50m. Farrell is paying for the planning application, which could take six months to obtain, out of his own pocket.
Neil Bennett, a partner at the firm, said another £25m could be spent on putting flats in the towers and a conference centre in the park. “We think there is a groundswell of opinion in favour of something like this,” said Bennett. “It will decrease the amount of money a developer has to spend before there is a return. We think [the new owners] will come knocking on our door.”
He said the proposal had already attracted some interest from developers.
It compares with the £150m refurbishment cost of Viñoly’s £5bn scheme of homes, offices and shops, which won planning permission from Wandsworth council in 2011. The company that commissioned the plan, the troubled Irish property firm Treasury Holdings, had control of the Battersea site wrenched away by its creditors, Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency and Lloyds Banking Group. They put the site up for sale in January. Treasury, which is controlled by the flamboyant Irish tycoon Johnny Ronan and his business partner Richard Barrett, is suing Nama for compensation.
Garner has written to Knight Frank, which is handling the sale, to suggest that the power station be separated from the remaining land, which could be developed commercially. On behalf of the development trust founded in 2002, he bid £1 for the freehold of the building. He believes large parts could open to the public straight away. He pointed to examples of industrial buildings in the Ruhr region in Germany which were left as “controlled ruins,” as well as Buffalo Central Terminal in the US which has been given to a group of enthusiasts for restoration.