Battersea to be £500m pleasure palace

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The Independent Online

After all the hype of last week's opening of Tate Modern, London's new contemporary art gallery housed in a disused power station, an even bigger turbine hall in the capital is to be given a new lease of life. Battersea power station - London's forgotten, derelict industrial masterpiece - is to become a £500m entertainment complex.

Fifteen years ago, it was Battersea power station which was considered as a possible home for a second Tate Gallery in London. But despite appeals from local residents to the Tate to move just across the Thames from its main base in Pimlico, the trustees instead opted to go downriver to Southwark and the Bankside building, which, like Battersea, was designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. While Bankside was restored as a stunning Thameside landmark, the Grade II listed Battersea site was left derelict, without a roof and sitting in a wasteland of rubble.

But now, Battersea looks as if it will finally get a new lease of life. At the same time as the Queen and the new mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, were attending the opening of Tate Modern, plans for a revamped Battersea were being submitted by developers wanting to convert the power station into a spectacular £500m entertainment centre with rides, 32 cinemas, theatres, shops and hotels.

Park View International, which has owned the building for seven years, has applied for full planning permission to Wandsworth Borough Council to convert it into an entertainment centre."It is a very expensive operation and it has taken a great deal of time to organise," said a Park View spokesman. "We can't just knock holes in walls."

But Park View's plans are likely to spark another row over the future of the power station. Last week, Sir Terence Conran spoke out at the opening of Tate Modern, calling for an imaginative solution to Battersea's plight. "Battersea Power Station must be next," he said. "If I had my way it could be the most fabulous centre of design."

Battersea Power Station Community Group, appealed to the Tate in the early Eighties to consider Battersea as a new home for its contemporary art collection. "What has happened to the building since then has been an absolute scandal," said the group's spokesman, Ernest Rodker.

"There has been a failure of enterprise, and a failure of the council to secure an imaginative plan. It could have been a museum. Instead, the council became obsessed with the idea of it as a theme park."

The power station has not had a roof for 10 years and English Heritage is concerned that damp has affected the west turbine hall, where important decorative features are located.

Since the power station was closed down in 1983, a series of developers and their plans have come and gone. Among the first was John Broome, the man behind Alton Towers.

Battersea later ended up in the hands of the Official Receiver, from whom Park View, a company run by the Hong Kong-based Hwang family, bought it in 1993. The latest designers recruited are Benoy, a firm which is also behind the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and redesign of the Birmingham Bull Ring.

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