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Battersea Power Station plans threaten hidden industrial gem

The Victorian Society is opposing plans to knock down one of the oldest surviving water pumping stations in the country. The pumping station, built in 1840, is little known as it lies hidden away and largely forgotten next to Battersea Power Station on the south bank of the Thames.

Photo courtesy of Brian Barnes

Plans have been submitted to Wandsworth Borough Council to restore the power station and to develop the 20 hectare site which surrounds it. Proposals include building 3700 homes, office space, restaurants, shops and a new riverside walk. They do not include keeping a historically important and rare water pumping station.

Despite the size of the site and the scale of the development the owners claim it is impossible to reuse the pumping station in any way.

With the exception of the 1930s power station, the owners have treated the site as a blank canvas and have assumed from the outset that the Grade II-listed pumping station will be demolished.

'This approach is outdated and evocative of post-war redevelopments', said Alex Baldwin, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'It is now widely recognised that this is not an acceptable approach to our historic environment. This site is not a blank canvas and efforts should be made to incorporate the listed pumping station into the proposals.'

The building is probably the oldest surviving water pumping station in England, after Kew. There is also archaeological evidence that it housed what may have been the largest water pumping engine in the country.

The plans put forward by developer, Treasury Holdings go against government planning advice, which says that a listed building should not be demolished unless efforts have been made to find a new use, or to transfer the building into charitable or community ownership. The Society is concerned that these efforts were never made and now a significant historical building could be lost.

It is hard to believe claims by the developer that the entire scheme for the power station and the regeneration of the surrounding site is rendered unviable if the pumping station is kept.

'It is wonderful that Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's power station is to be given a new lease of life, but it mustn't be used as an excuse to demolish another listed building. It may dwarf its neighbour in size but in terms of historical significance to London the pumping station can hold its own and must not be lost.'

Wednesday 3 March, 2010

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Earlier item: Don’t demolish a rare survivor from Hartlepool’s Victorian past

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