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Competition

Battersea Power Station ceased all production of electricity in 1983 leaving the Electricity Board with the problem of what to do with the building. They had planned, before the Grade 2 listing was conferred, that demolition and sale of the 15 acres of land would bring "welcome revenue" but they were now left with the high costs of preserving the building instead. To rid themselves of this responsibility they decided to offer the Power Station for any alternative use that they deemed financially viable. They held a competition in 1983 to encourage developers to submit ideas and from a short-list of 10 schemes, a panel of experts lead by Sir Hugh Casson chose an idea for a theme park based on episodes from Britain's industrial history as the only financially viable entry.

The Electricity Board had made a token attempt to involve the local community in the competition with a separate section for schools and other organisations to submit their ideas but there was no question that this section could win the competition.

Local people were allowed to vote on the different schemes through a self selecting ballot but the result was not to influence the panel, and an area of a mere 10,000 square feet was to be for the communities use in any winning scheme.

Local people had worked hard to make it the most efficient power station, many devoting their entire working lives to the success of the station. The surrounding area, largely housing estates for working people, would be affected by any new use for the station.

View from gas holder

The Roche Consortium and John Broome

The competition in 1983 was won by a consortium of builders banks and architects brought together specifically for the event by Sir David Roche.  John Broome, the owner of Alton Towers theme park, was a member of the consortium. Soon after the competition, Broome took control of the organisation. He then changed the emphasis of the proposed development by using American theme parks as his model requiring 2 million customers a year for profitability with an estimated cost of £35 million.

The gullible Conservative local council supported the theme park and and gave Broome planning permission in May 1986. They ignored the evidence from Battersea Power Station Community Group that traffic would make the roads impassable. The claim that 4,000 new jobs would be created was a 10 fold exaggeration and that £35 million was not enough to pay for the extravagant proposal.

After securing finance, John Broome purchased the site in 1987 for £1.5 million and work started. However, costs quickly escalated, reaching £230 million by January 1989. Work stopped in March 1989 leaving the Power Station in its present semi-derelict and exposed state. Since that date it has languished without a roof, it's steel work exposed to the elements and it's foundations prone to flooding.

In March 1990, Broome returned to the local council with a plan for 1.5 million sq.ft. of offices, a 1,000 bedroom hotel and 100,000 sq.ft. of shops to surround the Power Station to try and maximise the potential of the land. Planning permission was granted in August 1990 even though 14 independent organisations ranging from English Heritage and the Thirties Society to all adjacent Councils and the Community Group severely criticised the plans.
 

Battersea Leisure notice board

Despite receiving planning permission, no further work took place between 1990 and 1993.
In 1993 the Bank of America were paid approximately £10 million to by a Hong Kong based development company to take a controlling interest in the site.
 

North west chimney c1990
 
 

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