Home Commercial Property Was buying Battersea Power Station for £400m a bargain or a bad-buy?

Was buying Battersea Power Station for £400m a bargain or a bad-buy?

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5th Jul 12 3:59 pm

Having worked with the iconic site before, property expert Ed Mead remains sceptical about the deal announced last night

A well-known agent has been bigging themselves up for selling it. Like three agents before who’ve done the same – it’s created the hype but can we really have hope given that usually nothing happens?

As an agent involved with the previous owners (sadly pre-Lehman) who were expecting us to sell thousands of flats, I’m as disappointed as the next agent.

It’s been a huge white elephant bearing in mind it was built almost 100 years ago, worked for barely 20 and has been derelict for the rest.

It lives in my head with a big plastic pig flying over it as the frontispiece for Pink Floyd’s Animals album. For anyone under 40 it’s simply a ruddy great empty space criminally left to rot. For anyone in Government, both local and national it’s a potential source of income or, most provocatively, a new tube station. For developers it LOOKS like a big pile of cash. Briefly for Chelsea Football Club it looked like the answer to all their prayers and for English Heritage it’s sacred.

Last time I was there it was being used by stunt teams and circuses and for Christmas parties using huge marquees that were quite simply dwarfed by the magnificent scale of the place.

You can certainly argue the price is a bargain at £400m. Last time I was involved they were talking about 16000 residential units. That’s like building Milton Keynes by the Thames!

But they’ve got to do it right. Parkview, the Hong Kong based development company that bought it in 1993 tried to divert attention away from the mundane by suggesting a restaurant at the top of one of the chimneys, with one special table right on the top.

I’m not privy to the new buyers’ plans but there’s little point in building a billionaires playground as to be honest there aren’t enough to go around. With Chelsea Barracks and One Hyde Park they’re all accommodated apparently, so these thousands of flats need to be balanced with the usual plethora of malls, entertainments and travel hubs.

One of the few reasons the Shard seems to be quietening its critics down is that it’s built right on top of London Bridge Station, so those thousands who’ll work and live there can get there. If you build a vastly greater concentration of offices and flats for many thousands more right by Battersea Park the overground station will be overwhelmed. It’ll need an underground station which is likely to cost over a quarter of a billion. That’s a huge number.

Much of the area’s viability will of course depend on whether the main structure itself will be retained. If it is, almost all of the billion bricks left in the structure need repointing. Just think about that. I’ve stood underneath the structure and it’s just huge.

These issues boggle the mind and it’s sad that you’ve really got to look East to find anyone with the financial muscle to do this.

The Government could have got together to rebuild and reinvigorate South West London and breathed life into the site but perhaps only at the expense of the building itself which I still think would be a shame.

So please don’t get excited and pat anyone on the back yet.

The Malaysians might have bought themselves a bit of kudos and could, depending on the reality of their vision, make a pile of money, but until they actually start to build something useful there I’ll not be getting too excited.

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