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A Chelsea stadium in Battersea Power Station is the best idea yet. Don’t listen to Lister

Lister and Johnson should open the door to Chelsea FC’s vision for Battersea

It was shocking to hear Edward Lister, London deputy mayor for planning, pooh-pooh the new Chelsea football stadium plan for Battersea Power Station. This is the most thrilling and plausible vision for the regeneration of the beleaguered building yet.

The exclusive early concept sketch by KPF (published in the AJ 10.05.12), who is working with Rafael Viñoly on the bid, shows a design that both maintains the integrity of the original building, while giving this stunning white elephant a brilliant legacy. If built, it could join FC Braga by Eduardo Souto de Moura as one of the most architecturally atmospheric stadia in the world.

Who would not want to see a match or live concert in this iconic venue? It feels exactly right, evoking the kind of old-meets-new mash-up that Britain does best, transforming masterpieces of Victorian industry into fun palaces, from Liverpool’s Albert Dock to Manchester’s G-Mex, London’s Tate Modern to Newcastle’s Baltic.

If it had been completed in time to host the London Olympics, the Battersea stadium would have stolen the show. You can already imagine it on film, jump-cutting from Big Ben, to the Gherkin, to the London Eye, to Battersea stadium.

And it would certainly do for the surrounding area what the Olympics have done for East London – the Blues, owned by Roman Abramovich, have already offered to contribute towards the £900 million cost of a Northern Line spur to Battersea, and the footfall of 60,000 fans, creating opportunity and dynamism for local businesses and people, is not to be sniffed at.

Which makes Lister’s comments, made after Boris Johnson was re-elected mayor of London, appear nonsensical. ‘I don’t think the site is suitable for Chelsea, and nor do a lot of people. It’s not a goer,’ he said, claiming the infrastructure was not ‘geared up’ for a football club. The plans will need the mayor’s backing to go ahead.

Lister’s stance is rich considering he presided over Wandsworth Council for nearly two decades and accomplished nothing but further decay of the Grade II*-listed structure. If it’s traffic he’s worried about, Lister should not have backed previous plans for a conference centre, 3,700 homes, offices, shops and restaurants in 2009. The daily throng of commuters would have placed far more pressure on the local transport infrastructure.

Lister’s nearly two decades on Wandsworth Council accomplished nothing but further decay of the Grade II*-listed structure

And if it’s the profile of the prototypical football fan that he objects to, he should understand that Chelsea hosts just 30 games or less a year. Which means 335 days a year, Battersea would be a nice, quiet, iconic landmark. Compare that to the previous housing scheme, and a football stadium looks like a very good neighbour – or indeed, the very best kind of flatmate, who pays all the bills, and is rarely home.

Let’s hope Lister reconsiders his knee-jerk reaction to Battersea in light of the punishing vote against the Conservatives at the polls last week. Voters want investment and vision. This latest plan for Battersea sounds like a real opportunity knocking. Lister and Johnson should open the door.

Readers' comments (5)

  • In the hope that LB Wandsworth or the directors of St George or even Boris Johnson read the AJ and at the risk of being boring we would reiterate this point - the best use for Battersea Power Station is as a power station. With a huge area of south facing roof, 4 vast wind swept chimneys, a vast volume open to solar gain and its immediate proximity to a tidal river with a 7m tidal difference there must be viable options for a mixed mode approach to sustainable energy production on an industrial scale. The UK has made a large commitment to meeting renewable energy targets, why not have a real working power station that could supply energy to the Nine Elms development and act as a showcase in the heart of London. It could be managed by an Energy Company for profit, house a swimming pool and/or an 'Eden project like' botanical gardens growing fruits etc. utilising any excess heat gain. It would become a visitor attraction in it own right and demonstrate at a national and international level that the UK is serious about renewables.

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  • Absolutely agree. As I said last week on my blog (planninginlondon.wordpress.com) this is a great opportunity to build a stadium, and then create the infrastructure (tube station, pedestrian routes, roads, parking) to work well with it. Then, just like Wembley stadium, you can craft the other buildings around it so the whole works together.

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  • I am repeating myself here as I have made my comments in the digital AJ. The Braga stadium has no seating behind the goals which has led to some criticism by visisting and club fans. If this model is used you could actually fit the football pitch within the four chimneys at Battersea. However I don´t think British fans would very much appreciate this kind of arrangement and that seems to be the reason why KPF are placing their proposal on one side of the power station.

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  • I think this is a great idea. Far too often no one comes up with a plausible use for these redundant buildings. And the following research is maybe worth taking note of:

    ‘In general, house prices in the areas that are home to many of the our major football venues have strengthened significantly over the past decade, reflecting in part the amenities commonly found in such locations, including good transport links,’ said Suren Thiru, housing economist at the Halifax.

    http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/uk-property-football-stadium-201108155451.html

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  • Whilst I agree and have stated elsewhere before that there is excellent potential for the future use of Battersea as a power station, I disagree with Chris Medland that this is incompatable with it's use as a football stadium. I also disagree with his choice of renewable energies. That is not to say that any development should not embrace solar power and even a few wind turbine but more immediately viable and likely to service a greater proportion of the development's energy needs is Energy from Waste. Two of the principle concerns surrounding planning applications for EfW facilities in urban areas are the need for stacks/chimneys and the movement of waste. Clearly their are 4 chimneys to chose from here. The site is also immediately adjacent to the Cringle Dock Waste transfer Station so local residents are already used to much of Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Wandsworth's waste being transported to the site. Rather than shipping this waste to Bexley for incineration why not use gasification technology to convert it locally to power and heat for the new development. Modern technology could easily be accommodated under one of the stands.

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