By Max Clarke
From Battersea Power Station to the world’s first steam powered brewery in Chiswick, London’s unique industrial heritage is at risk of further decay and even demolition, according to English Heritage’s annual Risk Register.
“By far the largest city in England, London played a huge role in the industrialisation of the country — from shipbuilding and munitions factories to silk weaving and furniture making at Spitalfields and Shoreditch,” explains Nigel Barker, English Heritage’s Head of Regional Partnerships for London.
“This period of British history — spanning from 1750 to World War l — shaped not only Britain’s place in the world, it shaped the lives of most of our forebears and laid the foundations of the modern age in which new forms of industry emerged — telecommunications, car manufacturing, food processing and factories of all types. The places where we live and work still look largely the way they do because of the industry that went on in them.
“Much of this industrial heritage is now at risk and the current economic climate isn’t helping. Owners are finding it hard to look after the needs of their buildings as well as their businesses. Developers are cautious about taking on vacant industrial buildings, public bodies and regeneration agencies are less able to support schemes for re-use. There are no easy answers but we’re determined to see what can be done to help. Our industrial past is too important to ignore.”
The condition of Battersea Power Station, whose roof was removed in the 1980s, has deteriorated over the past decades, as rainwater feeds further decay of the Grade II listed Art Deco brick building. Various plans have been submitted to redevelop the site, including theme parks and music venues; all of which have since fallen through as the scale of the redevelopment deterred investors.
Currently Dublin based REO (Real Estate Opportunities), are in talks over a £4 billion redevelopment, after purchasing the site for upwards of €500 million. The project has repeatedly been delayed over funding issues.