The battle for Battersea's chimneys

Parkview International, the Hong Kong-based firm owned by the reclusive billionaire Victor Hwang, has submitted proposals to demolish the four chimneys and replace them with replicas after a scientific study, backed by English Heritage, found they cannot be repaired.

The company has spent £450,000 on surveys and trial repairs of the chimneys, but its consultants concluded they were in a "worryingly poor condition" and must be demolished.

But a separate report commissioned by campaigners and two leading conservation bodies - the World Monuments Fund and the Twentieth Century Society - rejects the findings and calls for the fluted smoke stacks to be preserved for posterity. A draft copy of the report, obtained by The Independent, challenges Parkview's claim that the chimneys are at risk of collapse.

Instead, it suggests that cracks in the concrete which surrounds the steel rods that form the chimneys date from their construction and can be filled in.

The study, which will be presented to Wandsworth Borough Council before it meets to make its decision on the scheme next month, said: "No evidence to support the statement that the chimneys are close to the end of their design life has been seen. There is no evidence that the four chimneys are structurally unsound despite the absence of any repair and maintenance work since the station was closed in 1983."

The study suggests that chloride levels in the chimneys, which Parkview's consultants say has contributed to the decay, are only marginally above normal.

The dispute is the latest in a litany of controversies which have dogged efforts to bring into the 21st century one of central London's last great industrial relics. Construction of the power station began in 1927 but it was not fully operational until 1940.

The plant, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the creator of the red phone box and Liverpool Cathedral, was the subject of an ill-fated attempt in the late 1980s to turn it into a fun park before Mr Hwang bought it for a reported £10.5m in 1993.

His own proposals for the site have also been beset by delays but Parkview revealed its plans for the 38-acre site this summer, including the power station which has a footprint equivalent to the size of Trafalgar Square and St Paul's Cathedral combined. As well as turning the building into an arts and exhibition venue topped by a futuristic hotel, the power station will be flanked by offices, hotels and flats.

But campaigners claim that proposals to demolish and rebuild the chimneys at a cost of £12m could be a prelude to its eventual destruction. Brian Barnes, founder of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, said: "There is no reason for the chimneys to be destroyed - their condition has been exaggerated and we don't believe they will be rebuilt."

Parkview rejects his claims, and cites the support of English Heritage, the state conservation body, which said in a statement: "We are confident that the new chimneys will match the existing stacks in form and materials and that the power station's iconic appearance ... will be unaffected."

The company, which aims to finish the project by 2008, said it would enter into a binding contract with its contractor, Bovis, to rebuild the chimneys and place £12m to cover the cost with a financial institution.

Ian Rumgay, Parkview's director of communications, said: "We have carried out exhaustive investigations ... and the overwhelming evidence is that repair is simply not possible. To suggest we will knock them down and walk away is not credible. We have spent £100m drawing up these plans. The chimneys are the symbols of Battersea and therefore a key part of our brand - we could not do without them even if we wanted to."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk