Further to the released plans of aesthetically thrilling design of the Phase III of the Battersea Power Station project unveiled by Frank Gehry earlier this year, certain things are clear. Confirmed: it will be a positive addition to London, and contribute more interest to Battersea Power Station by letting it overflow with some of Gehry’s magic. Gehry in collaboration with Foster + Partners has designed the undulating building to the west of The Electric Boulevard called “The Skyline”, which brings together the other half of the planned homes in addition to a medical centre and 160-room hotel. Two floors of retail front on to the western side of the street, while breaks in the façade allow daylight to reach the public spaces below are bound to wow the architectural crowd and the entire top of the building is laid out as one of London’s largest roof gardens, who could ask for more. It even includes 103 units of affordable housing. The question is, how many people can afford £800,000 for the smallest apartment though? What is not so clear is their definition of ‘affordable’ is one that would serve only a small percentage of the population with a one bed apartment starting at £800,000.
Frank Gehry, Founder of Gehry Partners:
“Our goal from the start has been to create a neighbourhood that connects into the historic fabric of the city of London, but one that has its own identity and integrity. We have tried to create humanistic environments that feel good to live in and visit.”
Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister:
“Battersea Power Station is an iconic site and the unveiling of this exciting new design by Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners will ensure the development of this former industrial site will put Battersea on the world stage once again. The plans for a new high street for the capital show that London continues to attract the best in terms of architecture, design and innovation.”
These quotes are from their press release and it is clearthat everyone is in accord that it Phase III is going to be an aspirational environment, but only for a lucky few. Unfortunately this is going to happen more and more as the government has recently allowed developers in new build hot-spots like Milton Keynes to renegotiate the number of affordable housing in one case from 63 to zero in an effort to stop the scheme ‘stalling’ as the previous numbers were ‘economically unrealistic’. Seems like they didn’t have to go to the bother to renegotiate, unless their ‘affordable housing’ was aiming for the people earning more than £200,000 p.a.!
In Scotland where values are still 22% below their peak, the impending referendum in September is undoubtedly having an impact on the property market.
While the outcome is unlikely to affect dramatically the intentions of existing Scottish residence, the uncertainty has had an impact on the number of buyers moving from London who, until the summer, were keen to take advantage of the value gap. We would expect a decisive ‘no’ vote majority, to boost activity and consumer confidence in the housing market. In the event of a decisive yes vote, we would expect the current uncertainty to continue, with a further delay in the recovery.
That was a survey carried out by Savills. As a lender, we have stopped lending on Scottish properties until the outcome of the vote, this is just because of the uncertainty of the value of Scottish properties, and the currency that we would be repaid in.
When I am talking to property developers in Scotland I feel their frustration that this referendum is having on their business, they will think it’s going to be a no vote and find it difficult to believe that the independence vote will go through, but as a lender we have to be cautious and the uncertainty around the future of Scotland is just made it impossible to lend there at this moment in time.
Looking at the report carried out by Savills, I hope there is a decisive no vote, and that will give a much needed boost to the Scottish property market. If in the event of a yes vote, it would seem that there will be a long drawn-out process until the currency and the markets settle down and and then we should see the property market recover. There is still a question of how a person from outside what would then be a new independent Scotland, would we be able to buy a property and also who the lenders would be, would the English banks still be allowed to mortgage properties in what would be a foreign country?
Richard Butler Creagh