David Cameron announced yesterday that the £8 billion project to transform Battersea Power Station into the hub of a new riverside development will begin next year.
The last time a Conservative Prime Minister announced a redevelopment project at Battersea, it was Cameron’s political heroine Margaret Thatcher, who famously donned a hardhat and fired a laser gun at the station in 1988 to officially launch a short-lived project to turn it into a theme park. The incumbent chose the more sober surroundings of the Global Investment Conference, at which he extolled Britian as a good place to do business, and promised that Battersea would transform the area and create 20,000 jobs during construction, with 13,000 permanent positions once the project was finished (though we’re struggling to imagine how all these people would be employed).
As approved in 2010, the plan is to redevelop the remains of the station into a complex of offices, shops, housing, a hotel and, apparently, one of London’s largest ballrooms. As part of the project, a Northern line extension from Kennington to Battersea via Nine Elms will be constructed. The company that guided the project through the planning stages went bust in December, and the site was sold at auction last month: after bids by Chelsea FC and a proposal to turn the site into an urban park, the winning bid came from a Malaysian property firm.
Cynics will rightly question whether the new Battersea will ever go ahead given that, three decades after it was decommissioned, the station has had more failed re-boots than a cheap Dell laptop.