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.