x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Old Smoky shakes off dusty image to power-up prospects

According to Britain's tabloid newspapers, A-list celebrities are homing in on Battersea, on the south side of the river Thames, as their latest stamping ground.

According to Britain's tabloid newspapers, A-list celebrities are homing in on Battersea, on the south side of the river Thames, as their latest stamping ground.

David and Victoria Beckham have been house-hunting in the area and Victoria has bought space to expand her designer fashion business there.

While Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef who ran Dubai's Verre restaurant at the Hilton Dubai Creek hotel until 2011, already lives nearby at Wandsworth Common. He plans to open his next restaurant, London House, in Battersea Square and there have been reports this year he is intending to return to the UAE. In January he said he was considering possible locations here.

"Dubai fantastic," he said at the time. "We are looking at two locations, it's only a matter of time."

Battersea's buzz is all down to the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, or Old Smoky, as it was once known, the art deco industrial landmark that had been falling into dilapidation since it was switched off in 1982. The power station is one of London's best known landmarks and is Europe's largest brick-built structure. It memorably featured on the cover of the UK supergroup Pink Floyd's 1977 Animals album. It has also played cameo roles in the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games last year and in James Bond movies. Yet when it comes to redevelopment, grand plans, major investors and millions of pounds have generally come to nothing. Until now.

Rob Tincknell, the chief executive of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, which bought the site from administrators last year, says finally the redevelopment is actually happening for real.

Malaysian investors now own the site and the Boris Johnson, the mayor of London and the local council Wandsworth are fully supporting the plans because a new Tube station stop, on the Northern Line, will be built there by the developers.

But the real evidence this scheme will reach fruition came in January when, after roadshows in London, Hong Kong and Singapore, Battersea announced 75 per cent of the phase one properties - about 600 out of 800 apartments - had been reserved by buyers. Construction on what will be the capital's biggest development project is due to start late this year with completion of phase one set for 2016/17.

According to Mr Tincknell, one of the biggest factors behind the scheme's progress is that Battersea is now surrounded by a sea of developers and investors, all waiting to regenerate the area. Not far away, another major landowner, New Covent Garden Market, is looking to redevelop its vegetable wholesale market into homes, offices, a hotel and shops - with the British developer St Modwen.

Further east along the river front, there are new plans at Waterloo for the Shell Centre and at Blackfriars, from the US investor Carlyle.

Battersea Power Station, which will eventually provide more than 3,400 homes and 1.7 million square feet of offices, plus 1.5 million sq ft of shops, is being dubbed the "town centre" of the greater Nine Elms development area.

"The power station was always isolate. Now you can see London moving to meet it," says Colin Wilson, the senior planning manager at the Greater London Authority. Mr Tincknell says the three Malaysian investors - SP Setia, a developer, Sime Darby, a Malaysian industrial conglomerate and EPF, the Malaysian Employees Provident Fund - bought the power station from administrators last year for £400 million. "They have great development experience in Malaysia and in Asia. They really understand and love the UK," he says.

The three firms, which are effectively arms of the Malaysian state, also have deep pockets and a long-term horizon. Battersea will compete with the other new districts around London, such as King's Cross and Stratford, for corporate occupiers. Chelsea, just across the bridge, is already home to some creative occupiers including the Saatchi Gallery and the architects Foster & Partners. Mr Tincknell hopes to attract more of the same.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest landowners in the neighbourhood, Berkeley Homes, will finish a 50-storey tower at Vauxhall shortly - the building will be one of Europe's largest residential towers, with 215 homes, overlooking the river and the Houses of Parliament.

One thing all these new areas share is, with rapid connection to the old heart of the capital, they are no longer considered out of reach.