Battersea Power Station in London

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Battersea Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station located on the south bank of the River Thames, in Battersea, South London. The station comprises two individual power stations, built in two stages in the form of a single building. Battersea A Power Station was built first in the 1930s, with Battersea B Power Station to its east in the 1950s. The two stations were built to an identical design, providing the well known four-chimney layout. The station ceased generating electricity in 1983, but over the past 50 years it has become one of the best known landmarks in London and is Grade II* listed. The station's celebrity owes to numerous cultural appearances, which include a shot in The Beatles' 1965 movie Help!, and being used in the cover art of Pink Floyd's 1977 album Animals. In addition, a photograph of the plant's control room was used as cover art on Hawkwind's 1977 album Quark, Strangeness and Charm.

Since closure the site has remained largely unused, with numerous failed redevelopment plans from successive site owners. The site is currently owned by Irish company Real Estate Opportunities (REO), who purchased it for £400 million in November 2006. In November 2010, REO was granted permission to refurbish the station for public use and build 3,400 homes across the site. In 2004, while the redevelopment project was stalled, and the building remained derelict, the site was listed on the 2004 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund.

The combination of an existing debt burden of approximately £750 million, the need to make a £200 million contribution to a proposed extension to the London Underground, requirements to fund conservation of the derelict power station shell and the presence of a waste transfer station and cement plant on the river frontage make a commercial development of the site a significant challenge.


Until the late 1930s electricity was supplied by municipal undertakings. These were small power companies that built power stations dedicated to a single industry or group of factories, and sold any excess electricity to the public. These companies used widely differing standards of voltage and frequency. In 1925 Parliament decided that the power grid should be a single system with uniform standards under public ownership. Several of the private power companies reacted to the proposal by forming the London Power Company. They planned to heed parliament's recommendations and build a small number of very large stations.

The London Power Company's first of these super power stations was planned for the Battersea area, on the south bank of the River Thames in London. The proposal for the station was made in 1927, for a station built in two stages, capable of generating 400,000 kilowatts (kW) of electricity once completed. The site was chosen for its close proximity to the River Thames for cooling water and coal delivery, and because it was sited in the heart of London, the station's immediate supply area. The total cost of its construction came to £2,141,550.

Design and specification

Both of the stations were designed by a team of architects and engineers. The team was headed by Dr. S. Leonard Pearce, the chief engineer of the London Power Company, but a number of other notable engineers were also involved, including Henry Newmarch Allott, and T. P. O'Sullivan who was later responsible for the Assembly Hall at Filton. Theo J. Halliday was employed as architect, with Halliday & Agate Co. employed as a sub-consultant. Halliday was responsible for the supervision and execution of the appearance of the exterior and interior of the building. Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was involved in the project much later on, consulted to appease public reaction, and referred to in the press as "architect of the exterior". Battersea is one of a very small number of examples of this style of power station design still in existence in the UK, other survivals being Uskmouth and Bankside. The station's design proved popular straightaway, and was described as a "temple of power", which ranked equal with St Paul's Cathedral as a London landmark. In a 1939 survey by Architects Journal, a panel of celebrities ranked it as their second favourite building.

Each of the two connected stations consist of a long boiler house with a chimney at each end and an adjacent turbine hall. This makes a single main structure which is of steel frame construction with brick cladding. This is similar to the skyscrapers which were built in the United States around the same time. The station is the largest brick structure in Europe.

The A Station generated electricity using three turbo alternators; two 69 megawatt (MW) Metropolitan Vickers British Thomson-Houston sets, and one 105 MW Metropolitan Vickers set, giving the A Station a generating capacity of 243 MW. At the time of its commissioning, the 105 MW generating set was the largest in Europe. The B Station also had three turbo alternators, all made by Metropolitan-Vickers. This consisted of two units which used 16 MW high pressure units exhausting to a 78 MW and associated with a 6 MW house alternator, giving these units a total rating of 100 MW. The third unit consisted of a 66 MW machine associated with a 6 MW house alternator, giving the unit a rating of 72 MW. Combined, these gave the B station a generating capacity of 260 MW, making the site's generating capacity 503 MW. All of the station's boilers were made by Babcock & Wilcox, fuelled by pulverised coal from pulverisers also built by Babcock & Wilcox. There were nine boilers in the A station and six in the B station. The B station's boilers were the largest ever built in the UK at that time. The B station also had the highest thermal efficiency of any power station in the country for the first twelve years of its operation.


Coal transportation

The station had an annual coal consumption of over 1,000,000 tonnes. The majority of this coal was delivered to the station from coal ports in South Wales and North East England by coastal collier ships. The ships were "flat-irons" with a low-profile superstructure, fold-down funnel and masts to fit under bridges over the Thames above the Pool of London. The LPC and its nationalised successors owned and operated several of its own "flat-irons" for this service. By this time the A Station's was co-firing oil and its generating capacity had reduced to 228 MW. (This was upgraded to Grade II* listed in 2007.) By then the B Station's generating capacity had fallen to 146 MW. Following resolution of creditors' claims, it acquired the freehold title in May 1996. In November 1996 plans for the redevelopment of the site were submitted and outline consent was received in May 1997. Detailed consent for much of the site was granted in August 2000, and the rest in May 2001. The company received full possession of the site in 2003. Having purchased the site, Parkview started work on a £1.1 billion project to restore the building and to redevelop the site into a retail, housing and leisure complex.

Parkview's project plan, called simply "The Power Station", was masterminded by architect Nicholas Grimshaw. The scheme proposed a shopping mall, with 40 to 50 restaurants, cafés and bars, 180 shops, as well as nightclubs, comedy venues and a cinema. Cosmopolitan shops would have been sited in the A Station's turbine hall, and label name shops in the B Station's turbine hall. The boiler house would have been glazed over and used as a public space for installations and exhibitions. A riverside walkway would also be created, running continuously along the riverside from Vauxhall to Battersea Park.

Parkview claimed that 3,000 jobs would be created during the construction of the project, and 9,000 would be employed once completed, with an emphasis on local recruitment. In response, Parkview claimed to have given a legally binding undertaking to the council to provide certainty that the chimneys will be replaced "like for like", in accordance with the requirements of English Heritage and the planning authorities.

REO proposal

On 30 November 2006, it was announced that Real Estate Opportunities, led by Irish businessmen Richard Barrett and Johnny Ronan of Treasury Holdings, had purchased Battersea Power Station and the surrounding land for €532 million (£400 million).

Planning consent

The Council gave planning consent on 11 November 2010. REO hoped for construction to begin in 2011, but this has now been delayed to 2012. The station structure itself is expected to be repaired and secure by 2016, with completion of the whole project by 2020. The interior of the A station's control room was used for the "Find The Fish" segment of Monty Python's 1983 film The Meaning of Life.

More recently in October 2007, the power station was used as a filming location for the Batman movie, The Dark Knight. The station's stripped, empty interior was used as a setting for a burnt out warehouse.

The station has appeared numerous times in the long-running British science fiction series Doctor Who. It appeared briefly in the episode The Dalek Invasion of Earth in 1964, which saw the station in the 22nd century with two chimneys demolished, and a nearby nuclear reactor dome. It appeared again in the 2006 Doctor Who episodes "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel" as the base to which Londoners are drawn to be converted into Cybermen.

The Battersea Power Station Community Group think one of the main reasons for the power station's worldwide recognition is that it has appeared on the cover of Pink Floyd's 1977 album, Animals, on which it was photographed with the group's inflatable pink pig floating above it. The photographs were taken in early December 1976 and the inflatable pig was made by the German company Ballon Fabrik and Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw. The inflatable pig was tethered to one of the power station's southern chimneys, but broke loose from its moorings and, to the astonishment of pilots in approaching planes, rose into the flight path of Heathrow Airport. Police helicopters tracked its course, until it landed in Kent. The album was officially launched at an event at the power station. The image has since been parodied many times.

In recent years, the station has been used for various sporting, cultural and political events. Since 22 August 2009, the station has been used as a venue on the Red Bull X-Fighters season. On 13 April 2010 the station site was used as the venue for the manifesto launch of the Conservative Party led by David Cameron during the general election campaign for the UK Parliament at Westminster. Between 6 and 7 May 2010, the station site was used by Sky News in their coverage of the election. The site has also been used as a venue for racing tracks in the popular Colin McRae series of video games, featuring in both Dirt 2 and Dirt 3.

See also

  • Energy use and conservation in the United Kingdom
  • Energy policy of the United Kingdom

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