London’s Battersea Power Station, which ceased generation in 1983, is now on the market for £500 million. For 40 years it has been unproductive other than on the asset registers of banks, developers and fantasists. A reflection of capitalism in decline, it has turned from producing useful power into an engine of speculation.
Alton Towers Leisure Park bought the site for £1.5 million in 1983 and stripped its assets, just leaving the iconic turbine hall towers. Redevelopment plans followed thick and fast with numerous changes of ownership. All the while the costs of doing nothing sent debts soaring.
From a site worth £1.5 million, it became £35 million, to £70 million. Selling the debt became very profitable. Real Estate Opportunities, with links into Ireland’s failed banks, Jersey fundraisers, New York planners and Uruguay architects, bought it for £400 million in 2006, looking to raise £4 billion for another redevelopment – 25,000 office workers and 3,400 flats housing 28,000 inhabitants. The crash of Irish banks swept away the delusion.
From 1983 to 2010 the site has been idle except for being used as a film lot, for advert promotions and the launch of the Tory election manifesto in 2010. ■