BATTERSEA'S COMPLETE CONFUSION
The Battersea Power Station debacle is very confusing. Few people know exactly what is going on - least of all, it seems, the developers.
Hong Kong-based Parkview International bought the freehold on the Battersea Power Station site in 1996 - two years after the Tate announced that Bankside Power Station would be the home of Tate Modern. Nearly seven years since Tate Modern opened, Battersea Power Station is still in disarray.
The latest chapter in this seemingly never-ending story is a debate over the definition of 'complete', arising from a Section 106 agreement, signed in January 2005, stipulating that the power station's redevelopment must be completed before work could start on surrounding projects.
Parkview spokesman Ian Rumgay says: 'We are waiting for a definition of ficompletefl from Wandsworth Council.'
This semantic wrangling may sound like a Monty Python sketch, but Parkview claims it needs the definition to be certain of the work it must carry out to make the site ready for tenant fit-out.
'Once we get agreement on the Section 106 definition, we will be able to secure the future of the power station for generations to come, ' says Rumgay.
According to Parkview, once this is settled the developer will be the closest it has ever been to 'having all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in place'.
'We have just finished the enabling works and have completed an £8 million renovation and regeneration of the jetty, which will be used for the removal of waste from the site, as well as delivering new materials via the river, ' says Rumgay.
'We are the closest to starting work on redevelopment of the site since the power station was decommissioned in 1982.
'We need to get on with putting a roof on, building the west wall, putting in concrete oors and doing the electrical and mechanical work.
'It's what the construction boys call fishell and corefl - meaning it will be ready for tenant fit-out, ' he adds. 'But we can't do the actual tenant fit-out, as we don't know what they want, and we haven't even secured all of the tenants yet.'
However, a former employee of Parkview, who chose not to be named, claimed that tenants who had been waiting to get involved and were 'excited about the prospects' became disillusioned when Parkview owner Victor Hwang changed the designs for the scheme.
'We had our four oors of retail space, we had restaurants and we had 1 million m² of space, but then Victor changed the designs, ' the source said.
Local pressure group Battersea Power Station Community Group believes this change confirms that Parkview's promises for the scheme will not be kept.
Chair of the pressure group Brian Barnes said the talk of a 35-screen cinema, Cirque de Soleil and interchangeable exhibition space has been replaced with plans for 'some new oors and a roof'.
'It's quite clear they have to sell the site and they never intended to build the leisure centre they promised all those years ago, ' says Barnes.
'They just want to mothball the power station, make it wind and weather tight, then develop the surrounding site into ats, to make a more attractive prospect for whoever will buy it - be it Ballymore or Treasury Holdings.'
The pressure group claims that if this happens, it will spell the end for the power station.
Keith Garner, Barnes' partner at the Battersea Power Station Community Group, said mothballing the power station and developing ats would eventually result in the structure being demolished.
Garner believes Battersea should be left open to the public, to create awareness and interest in the building, but sections of it should be mothballed for development in future phases.
'The same method was used to regenerate [New York's] Ellis Island, ' says Garner. 'If you generate interest in a scheme, people will back the redevelopment project and you can apply for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund or similar organisations.
'But to leave it all wrapped up and then develop luxury ats on the surrounding site would mean that Parkview could apply for the power station's demolition, as it would be blocking the riverside views.
'They have gone about this totally the wrong way, ' Garner says. 'You can never redevelop a site of this size in one £1.5 billion project.'
The demolition of Battersea Power Station may seem unlikely, but little has happened at the site, despite reports of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers expressing an interest in becoming involved in the development.
Battersea Power Station's future still seems uncertain.
The regeneration of the site has been going on for more than a decade and confusion still abounds.
It speaks volumes that the most activity in recent months concerning the redevelopment will happen on 9 November, when councillors gather to debate the meaning of 'complete'.