Vinoly's Battersea eco-tower scrapped
Back to the drawing board for power station developer after mayor signals his opposition
Rafael Viñoly has abandoned controversial plans for a 250m-high tower at the heart of his masterplan for Battersea Power Station in the face of opposition from London mayor Boris Johnson, BD can reveal.
Scaled down plans, missing the signature “eco-chimney”, were presented by Viñoly in person to Cabe’s design review panel last Wednesday after Johnson and his senior planning officials warned the architect and the developer, Treasury Holdings, that he would oppose the scheme because of its impact on the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey world heritage site.
Johnson is overseeing revisions to the capital’s planning guidelines, which are set to outlaw tall buildings at Battersea but allow them in neighbouring Vauxhall.
The scrapping of the £4 billion regeneration project’s centrepiece will come as a major embarrassment to the New York-based architect and his developer, who consistently argued that the tower was an essential part of their proposal, despite having reduced its original 300m height by 50m last December.
Last month Treasury insisted that the tower was a significant part of the project’s viability, and claimed that if it was blocked, “London will be saying it’s in a time warp”.
Sources at local authority Wandsworth Council said Johnson was “very unhappy” with the tower’s height, and that questions had also been raised over claims that the chimney, through which air from the “eco-dome” complex below would be naturally ventilated, was the only way to safeguard the scheme’s green credentials.
“It is a matter of a world heritage centre view, and one that has been in strategic guidance for a long, long time,” a council source said.
“The crucial piece of news that has led to the change has been the mayor’s office letting Treasury Holdings know quite clearly [that it would not back the tower]... and [Viñoly] may have decided in light of that attitude that they needed to modify their scheme.”
“There were lots of people asking questions — on the one hand about whether [the eco-chimney] would actually work [and on the other about whether it was] the only way you could achieve a carbon-neutral scheme,” he added.
Battersea Power Station Community Group member Keith Garner reacted with frustration at the whole saga, saying the tower was “never seriously viable”.
He added: “The developer has wasted everyone’s time for a year when it could have been doing something productive.
“We want to see them repair the listed building on the site.”
Treasury Holdings, which bought the Battersea site in 2007 for £400 million, unveiled the 750,000sq m mixed-use scheme
in June last year. But its tower — set alongside Giles Gilbert Scott’s grade II* listed power station — was widely panned, with former RIBA president George Ferguson labelling Viñoly a “menace to London”.
A spokesman for Treasury denied the scheme had been altered in any way since December.