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Battersea Power Station: town planning on an industrial scale

01 November 2017 Author: Gordon Adams

We’ve all heard the responses when you say ‘I’m a town planner’.  They generally fit into a number of categories along the lines of “What’s that?”, “Are you going to put a pub on every corner?”, and “How many towns have you planned?”

Battersea Masterplan

Battersea Power Station Masterplan

The exciting thing is, at Battersea Power Station, we are creating a new town centre for the area.  Across eight phases on our 42 acre site we are delivering over 4,000 homes, the equivalent amount of office space to that at More London, shops, events venues and restaurants on a new high street and across three floors in the Power Station, along with a vast array of other land uses.  We’re even facilitating and helping to fund an extension of the Northern Line so that this new town will have exceptional accessibility and connectivity within London.

The exciting thing is, at Battersea Power Station, we are creating a new town centre for the area.  

Our first phase, Circus West Village, is now open and nearly complete.  It is residential-led which provided funding to start restoring the Power Station but contains an array of other uses including our Village Hall, restaurants, a pub, general store, offices, coffee shop, a cycle studio – village planning perhaps?  There is even a restored red telephone box where you can listen to stories about the Power Station and record your own too.  It is immensely satisfying to wander around the new buildings having seen them go from concept, to a planning application, to construction.

I read in an article that the Nine Elms area was ‘unplanned’ which I found comically wide of the mark.  From the 2008 designation of Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea (VNEB) as an Opportunity Area in the London Plan, the 2012 adoption of the VNEBOA Planning Framework, to Wandsworth’s Local Development Plan, our site and its surroundings have had best practice planning policy formulation which will become more and more prevalent as development sites are completed.

"The Power Station didn’t sit there for 30 years because it was easy."

However, as my CEO has frequently said, the Power Station didn’t sit there for 30 years because it was easy.  Our Malaysian shareholders are the fourth owners since the Power Station was decommissioned in 1983 with all previous attempts failing, and it is an immense privilege to be part of the team that has brought the scheme roaring to life.

The team’s relentless goal is continued delivery, to keep that momentum going, which we have done with our stakeholders since site purchase in September 2012 when the foot was firmly planted on the accelerator.  We have kept Wandsworth Council busy.  Very busy.  In just under five years we have submitted almost 300 planning applications ranging from brick detailing on the Power Station to a 9,000 page major application and everything in between.

Collaborative relationship with vast array of stakeholders

Given the planning intensity and uniqueness of the project, there is no way we can do it on our own.  As well as the home team at BPS, our incredibly supportive shareholders, and our home team consultants, we are proud of our collaborative relationship with the vast array of stakeholders involved in the planning process at Battersea Power Station.  Having come from a public sector background I am acutely aware that the best way to ensure success is to work together. We meet most weeks with both Wandsworth Council and Historic England with regular sessions held with Transport for London, the Environment Agency, the Port of London Authority, DCLG, and the Greater London Authority.

Given the scale of our development, we are affected by the majority of planning issues within the industry but generally at double the magnitude. The project is unique – renegotiating the sequencing of replacing the famous four chimneys was a first for all of us, together with finding all about the intricacies of constructing a new road-to-river waste transfer station.

With all the different land uses across the 10m sq ft masterplan it is difficult to focus in on one issue as being more important than the other – it is an extremely complex and challenging scheme.  We are currently in the process of trying to create a new town centre inside a half-demolished Grade II* listed former Power Station and, whilst it is not the cheapest project to deliver, that iconic Sir Giles Gilbert Scott structure is the heart and soul of our project. 

Accessible by the public for the first time

Whilst there are immense challenges in delivery the project, there are also immense opportunities.  When complete, the Battersea Power Station masterplan will deliver over 4,000 new homes, 20,000 new jobs, incubator space for entrepreneurs and start-ups, affordable homes, medical centres, crèche, a library/community hub, police office facilities, a new tube station, a Thames Clippers pier and river bus service, cinemas, a new six-acre riverside public park and a 2,000-person event space.  The Power Station’s four chimneys will be restored to London’s skyline and the building will be accessible by the public for the first time ever. It is exciting stuff.

The Battersea team is passionate about what we do and what we are delivering.  We take great pride in the project and take our custodianship of this treasured building extremely seriously.  But most of all, we are excited by what we are delivering, and I would encourage you all to come down and take a look for yourselves.

Battersea Power Station is proud to be sponsoring the 2017 RTPI Parliamentary Reception.

Guest blogs may not represent the views of the RTPI.


Gordon Adams

Gordon Adams

Gordon Adams is Head of Planning at Battersea Power Station Development Company.