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Comment & Analysis

Don’t be too leisurely over Battersea, Ken

21.07.2006

As Britain basks, the leisure sector courses through Property Week today.

From Richard Balfour-Lynn’s vineyard (analysis + opinion, p32) and our leisure awards winners (events, p48), to the worlds of pubs, cinemas and nightclubs (special report, p77), this is a colourful sector facing big challenges.

Late-night drinking and the smoking ban are among the main issues for the sector, but the leisure world has always been the most adaptable, if not the biggest, of the property sectors.

How sad then, that a project that could symbolise the creativity of leisure property in the UK still languishes very publicly on the banks of the Thames.

We are talking, of course, about Battersea Power Station.

Twenty-three years after it shut, the listed building remains empty, and its Hong Kong owner, Parkview, is on the hunt for an equity partner to get the project moving – apparently to no avail.

Property Week understands that Lend Lease, Berkeley, Ballymore, Chelsfield Partners and AAIM have approached Parkview with ideas for teaming up on the project. All have foundered on its refusal to countenance any significant changes to its plans for a mixed-use scheme revolving around the power station itself.

Having spent 28m on the site, Parkview can afford to sit tight, but it must by now have racked up 100m in fees, and its real difficulty is not the market but London’s new planning regime. At 300m-350m, Parkview might sell the site altogether; the trouble is, no one will consider paying more than 150m.

This is because the present planning consent only allows for 700 homes. Any developer that wanted to double this would still only be allowed 700 private homes, because the other 700 would have to be affordable.

Not only that, Ken Livingstone would also be pressing for renewable energy on site, hitting a developer’s sums even more. To make matters worse, doubts surround the future of long-serving Parkview chief executive Michael Roberts – although the company says he is still in his post.

Given that Ken is partly to blame for Battersea’s problems, he should now come up with a solution. Applying for Battersea to be de-listed and demolished would allow for an exemplar of private and affordable housing on the Thames. It would also allow for the huge Green space that the people of Wandsworth deserve.

At Property Week we would also welcome your suggestions for Battersea.

Email propertyweek-letters@cmpi.biz.

In the meantime Ken, it’s over to you, because progress at Battersea is a little too leisurely even for these sweltering times.

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