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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Battersea's powerful story
Battersea Power Station
Building work began 71 years ago
Battersea Power Station has suffered at the hands of vandals and the weather as development plans have come and gone since it ceased generating electricity in 1983.

The structure was designed by architect J Theo Halliday but owes its distinctive look to Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, also responsible for Britain's famous red public telephone box.

The power station was actually two generating units - Battersea A and Battersea B - side-by-side.

Battersea facts
Built on a steel frame, it is one of the largest brick structures in Europe
Battersea A has an Art Deco control room, Italian marble turbine hall, polished parquet flooring and wrought iron staircases
Theme park plans for the site have involved 10 different firms of architects so far

Construction started in 1929 and electricity production began in 1933, although the last chimney only went up in 1955.

Twenty years later, Battersea A closed down. In 1980 the whole structure was given Grade II listed status and Battersea B shut three years later.

The Central Electricity Generating Board then ran a design competition for future uses, won by the Roche Consortium, headed by Sir David Roche.

He planned to turn the building into a theme park with restaurants and leisure facilities.

Millionaire John Broome of Battersea Leisure, with Alton Towers Ltd, soon took over the project and building work started four years later with the demolition of the roof and west wall to remove the giant turbines.

The scheme had the backing of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was invited to reopen the converted station.

Designers from Texas were brought in to give the project a "Disneyesque" touch.

Recession

But by 1987 the costs of conversion, including stripping out tons of highly toxic asbestos, had risen to millions of pounds and economic recession halted work two years later. Mr Broome's company folded.

Anti-smoking campaign at Battersea
Anti-smoking at Battersea
After another short-lived development attempt in the early 90s Parkview obtained the site in 1996 and initial planning approval for their proposals was granted a year later.

The disused power station was also considered as the original site for London's Design Museum.

It has more recently served as a film set, pop concert venue and even giant anti-smoking hoarding.

Now Wandsworth Council's planning committee has unanimously backed a 500m scheme to redevelop the site as a leisure complex.

The plan includes hotels, a theatre, cinema, flats and a dedicated rail link from Victoria station, as well as rooftop restaurants.

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