Battersea Power Station
time to take action to ensure its survival!

Battersea Power Station is a well known and much photographed building on the banks of the Thames right alongside Chelsea Bridge. At any given time there will be photographers from all over the world clustering around the diminishing viewpoints to record their impressions of this superb iconic building. Yet it is an unfolding tragedy that soon this wonderful building will be allowed to become so neglected that it will have to be, at best, fundamentally altered or worse to be demolished.

The Power Station is really two buildings, the first, Battersea A was built in the 1930's with Battersea B added in the 50's giving us the landmark we see today. In 1980 the station was declared a heritage site and listed at Grade II then upgraded to Grade II* in 2007. So far so good! In the property business a listed building is a nuisance that stands in the way of developing a site and developers have tactics to get around this. The initial purchase costs to buy the site were relatively low, considering the size, and the potential profit from prime riverside dwellings in central London would run into billions of pounds so its easy to see the gamble that developers are willing to take in order to get the site how they want it.

The Power Station
Seen here working in the 70's
Photo © Reserved


One of the tactics developers employ is to open the building to the weather, usually by removing the roof. This exposes the interior to the elements and quickly destroys the building's stability. By the end of 1989 most of the roof had been removed. Rumour was that the roof material had been taken to pay a debt. In 2004 the station was added to World's Top 100 endangered buildings and English Heritage described its condition as "very bad".


After the removal of the roof
Photo ©
Brian Sharland

In reality the station has seen a succession of owners each of whom have explored and even submitted grandiose schemes; all of which have come to nothing. With each passing year the station is seeing more and more damage to its structure.

Photo © Martin Slayne
The problem, already bad, is now made worse by our new Governments determination to reduce all spending. English Heritage, the body that is responsible for Heritage matters, is facing a 30% budget cut. The ultimate threat of compulsory purchase is an empty weapon as it is unlikely the Government or local authority will be willing or able to put up the necessary funds to do so.
Photo © Anthony Jones

We hope to bring this to the attention of the world and to gain support in order to pressurise the relevant authorities. Already the view of the station is cut off on the west by high rise development adjoining Battersea Park and the station is only really visible in its majesty from the north bank of the Thames or from Chelsea Bridge. The Power Station mustn't be allowed to fall as what will replace will be mundane high rise apartments without soul or beauty and our culture and heritage will be sadder and less bright for the loss!

Sophie's Interview with Peter Dazely about his Battersea Pwer Station images which were featured widely across National and local press.

Battersea Power is now on the Buildings at Risk register, so Dazeley, one of London’s top Advertising Photographers, decided it was time to photograph and record this architectural icon in its sad state of decline, prior to planning application and the latest regeneration project due to start this year. It is a well known London landmark on the River Thames and also famous for being on the Pink Floyd’s 1977 ‘Animals’ album cover. ‘It seems so sad that such a magnificent building has ended up in its present state; and the series of photographs give a taste of its former  splendour,’ comments Dazeley.

Q: Given that the power station is part of your personal landscape, maybe your personal space.  What would you say made you decide to photograph it?

A: As an advertising photographer, I spend a lot of time interpreting clients’ briefs; but I also spend a lot of time doing personal projects.  Having lived in an apartment on the river between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges, overlooking Battersea Power Station I have, for many years, watched the slow process of dilapidation as it is passed from one developer to another. So in July 2010, I thought the time had arrived to do a personal project to record the state of Battersea Power Station. After many months of negotiation with the developers, I finally got access to the site, and its architectural marvels.

Q:Were you given access to all areas in the station and were you questioned as to your motives?  Were any restrictions placed on your movements and what you could photograph?

A: I was pretty much given access to the whole site, and was given a security/health and safety officer who stayed with us.  My crew and I all had to wear safety helmets, safety boots and visibility vests. There are areas of the site that we couldn’t get to because they were dangerous, also quite a few of the floors had been removed. So, for example, to get to one of the control rooms we had to walk over a temporarily erected bridge.

Q: Were you aware of any emotional atmosphere within the building? 

A: I feel so sad and wonder how the authorities have allowed this magnificent Grade II listed building to get into such a state of disrepair. It is so difficult to visualise what the power station would have looked like when it was functioning.  The whole of the middle of the power station has completely disappeared, including the roof.

Q:Do you feel the present proposal to return the station to producing power from waste is realistic?

A: This is a completely new idea to me.  Over the years every plan I have seen is about turning the power station into riverside apartments, shops, offices, restaurants, cinemas etc.  This is, I imagine, the only way a developer will get a return on their investment.

Q: What would you like to see done with the site?

A: I realise it is unrealistic and impossible, but in an ideal world the outside of building should be put back as it was, but the interior changed and used for community, leisure activities and to bring life back into this part of Battersea.

Q: Are you concerned for any other threatened buildings?

A: Yes, but I feel that we do have a trend now to wrap buildings up in aspic, far too much.  I feel that buildings should be allowed to evolve, Tate Modern is the most wonderful example of an old building being turned into a brilliant space for everyone to benefit from.  If you, as a private individual in a listed house, even so much as changed your windows, the whole force of the law comes down on you. Yet Battersea Power Station has been ripped to pieces and nobody appears to be accountable in anyway. If the building is left continually in this state, the likelihood is that it will have to be pulled down. The costs of putting it back together must rapidly be becoming unrealistic.

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Quotes: " My mother remembers watching the building of Battersea Power Station and remembers how controversial its building was at the time. Every building we lose, is tantamount to further erosion of our heritage. The man hours and labour that went into its construction are all embedded into this astonishing building. The Power station stands on their shoulders.If the power station is lost, it will be yet another example of our society  destroying  rather than  preserving icons that are so  representative of a period in our history."
Charlie Waite

"If the power station is allowed to become a ruin, its beauty will only be known through photographs, which would be a shame."
Anthony Jones

 

 

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May 2014
Roger Voller

 

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