How Battersea is powering up for its brave new world
Battersea is central London’s biggest regeneration zone — destined to become a 450-acre neighbourhood with 16,000 new homes, new parks and promenades, a Northern line extension and a new Thames bridge connecting Battersea to the Pimlico waterfront. And it will all be within a mile of Big Ben.
“Undoubtedly this is the most exciting new chapter in the story of London,” says architect Terry Farrell, the project’s masterplanner. “This is quite possibly the last time the capital will see the creation of a completely new district where none existed before.”
Plans for the £8 billion transformation of derelict Battersea Power Station into a “cultural hub” with a spectacular new park have already been unveiled by its new Malaysian owners.
Battersea “arrived” as a fashionable address in the 1990s, when emigres from Chelsea and Fulham crossed the river in search of value-for-money homes, but the game-changer for the area was the US government’s decision in 2008 to relocate its embassy from Mayfair to Nine Elms, next to the power station site. Due to open in 2016, the new embassy, which will be an 11-storey cube with a transparent outer shell that harvests solar energy, has been the catalyst for change, ending decades of delay to kick-start the new district.
Making the first move
The first of the new riverside developments launches mid-September, 2012. This complex of 1,982 homes, Embassy Gardens, will form a horseshoe around the US embassy. Buildings will vary in height and character, with designs strongly influenced by New York’s Meatpacking District and London’s Edwardian mansion blocks — constructed of brick rather than glass and steel to suggest permanence and solidity.
It will have a resort-style spa, a private club and business centre plus bars and a restaurant operated by the creators of trendy London nightspot Bunga Bunga. Ballymore, the developer, has also signed up Waitrose. Prices from £399,000. Call 0800 404 9009 or visit embassygardens.com.
Other major projects are set to follow. More than 20 million sq ft of new development already has planning consent, including 3,400 new homes around the power station site and 456 homes on a 13-acre Royal Mail depot at Nine Elms Parkside. “Nine Elms will change faster and more dramatically than any other part of London over the next decade,” says Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council.
The US Embassy has put the area on the map for international buyers and is almost certain to attract other diplomatic missions and blue-chip corporations, which will boost Battersea’s investment appeal. The transformation will take up to 20 years, meaning home-buyers will have to commit to the area for the longer term in order to reap the benefits of better amenities and infrastructure.
An earlier wave of riverside developments between Albert and Battersea Bridges, notably the Richard Rogers-designed Montevetro and Norman Foster’s Albion Riverside, has evolved into a smart residential quarter allied to a growing community of creative companies, cultural organisations and the Royal College of Art in Battersea Bridge Road.
Where old meets new
Traditionally, the area’s Achilles heel has been the absence of a Tube — the river gets horribly in the way — but a new Northern line spur built from Kennington will bring two new stations and help to unlock Battersea’s grimier hinterland.
Of course, there is much more to Battersea than swanky riverside apartments: it has pleasant Victorian terraces, Edwardian villas, lofts carved from old factories and schools and coveted parkside mansion flats.
The old village, back from the river, is just discernible around pretty Battersea Square, a cobbled hub at the top of the high street and butting against a typical London mix of high-rise council estates and conservation areas. Among the latter is the sought-after “Little India” enclave, with road names straight out of the Raj — Cabul, Afghan, Khyber and Candahar.
Battersea Park, laid out by the spacious-minded Victorians, is a 200-acre oasis with art gallery, children’s zoo, lake, running track, tennis courts and the splendid Peace Pagoda, and ringed by red-brick mansion blocks with well-kept communal gardens.
Then there is Clapham Junction, which provides transport and shopping, while streets either side of Queenstown Road are still gentrifying.
This patch includes Shaftesbury Estate, comprising charming terraced cottages. Built in the 1870s as low-rent housing for the working classes, the neat little homes are now popular with young buyers.
South of Battersea Rise is a tract known as Between the Commons (Wandsworth and Clapham), or “Nappy Valley”. Trendy Northcote Road is the spine of the area and the handsome period houses, local prep schools and primaries are a big hit with families.
“Families tend to look beyond Battersea Park to places such as Little India,” says Mark Hutton, branch manager of estate agent Douglas & Gordon. “The best homes in the best streets have jumped 15-20 per cent this year so far. On average, values equate to £650-700 a sq ft but can reach £1,150.
“Rental yields are typically four to nine per cent, with one-bedroom flats the most popular with investors.”
The average property price in the SW11 postcode is £827,000 and some properties for sale are going to sealed bids, according to Tim Phillips, of estate agent Chesterton Humberts.
The Royal College of Art is a significant new arrival from Kensington, across the river. Its new campus at Battersea Bridge Road joins a cluster of creative firms, including architect Foster & Partners, a Vivienne Westwood outlet and Simon Fuller’s XIX entertainment business premises.
'It is finally getting the recognition it deserves'
“It's a mini Shoreditch,” says entrepreneur Charlie Gilkes, a Battersea resident and fan, who, at 28, has invested in the area with his successful pizzeria and late-night karaoke venue Bunga Bunga.
The Old Etonian friend of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie opened the business after setting up Maggie’s, a Eighties-themed nightclub in Fulham Road, and Barts, a Prohibition-style speakeasy beneath a block of flats in Chelsea.
“Our business model is about being in the right postcode, not necessarily the right street,” he says.
Bunga Bunga is central enough to entice the Sloane diaspora but its bedrock clientele is south-west London 25 to 35-year-olds. “It’s an incredibly exciting time for Battersea and it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. Agents used to refer to it as South Chelsea but now there’s no stigma,” he says.
A new bar and restaurant at Embassy Gardens operated by his Inception Group company is a step up market and he says he is looking for more opportunities in the area.