The site of London’s Battersea power station has lain unused and derelict for almost 30 years for one simple reason: an unused and derelict power station sits on it. The costs of restoring and maintaining this crumbling monument to respiratory disease means it is no surprise that the site’s owner, Real Estate Opportunities, cannot find a partner for a £5bn redevelopment. Now the Irish developer’s frustrated lenders, which hold £325m of debt, wish to take the site into receivership. Regulators should see sense. The structure, which some think has an architectural beauty reminiscent of a Soviet bunker, should be demolished.
The building has always been the site’s fatal flaw. In 1987 it was sold for £1.5m with plans approved for a theme park. Cost blowouts meant the plan was scrapped. In 1993, a Hong Kong based-company bought it for about £10m and planned a retail and residential complex, but disputes over the power station’s maintenance helped delay construction. In 2006, ownership shifted to Real Estate Opportunities which touted a £5bn retail and residential plan. That now appears dead.
And all this when the site is prime real estate. It is directly on the river Thames, adjacent to a park, and political support for transport links is strong. There is also already one converted old power station nearby – Tate Modern museum of art. One is surely enough.
Most importantly, lawmakers must consider that if developers found the site unfeasible last decade – during one of the greatest property booms in history – there is little hope of a developer taking responsibility for the power station in the foreseeable future. The regeneration of an area of London is at stake in the redevelopment. Battersea power station is a questionable national treasure; its listed status should be reconsidered in light of undeniable economic realities.
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