diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tubewatch (42) To Battersea
As you'll be aware, there are plans to extend the Northern line to Battersea. They're only plans because the entire project is "subject to funding", which in turn is reliant on the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station, and that's anything but a certainty. But if everything gets the go-ahead, two new underground stations could be open by 2019. Does the area deserve it? I've been down to have a look.

Kennington: At present, off-peak at least, the Charing Cross branch of the Northern line terminates at Kennington. Southbound trains disappear into a big loop of tunnel - the Kennington Loop - and emerge on the opposite platform ready to head north again. The new extension would take advantage of this loop to blast off a fresh tunnel in the general direction of Battersea. It'd be a long tunnel too, almost two miles to the next station, because this new extension pauses for no man. It careers off at right angles, drawn by the smell of developers' cash, crossing the Victoria line without making any attempt to stop. Socially speaking that's strange, because it's hard to imagine anyone in the Battersea area having a burning need to visit Kennington. The area around the station's nice enough, blessed with leafy streets and quiet squares, even a tasteful parade of independent shops. But all the action's with the interchange underground and the possibilities a direct connection the West End would bring.

Nine Elms: The site of the proposed Northern line station probably isn't what you expect. A building site perhaps, maybe a corner of the fruit and vegetable market. None of these. Instead the new station will be built along the far end of Sainsbury's car park, in the farthest corner just past the petrol station. You might be able to park there now and fill your boot with carrier bags, but in seven years this expanse could mark the site of the lifts and the ticket machine. Sainsbury's won't mind too much, they already have plans to build flats across most of the rest of their car park, and they'll also be handsomely rewarded with thousands more tube-driven customers. A couple of semi-industrial buildings will have to be demolished to make way for the station, one of them the Head Office of burglar alarm company Banhams. I do hope they're already looking for alternative accommodation, just in case. Meanwhile on the opposite side of Pascal Street is a nondescript crescent of family houses and utilitarian flats, whose residents are in for an absolute windfall if they own their own homes and a serious rent-hike if they don't. Indeed the adjacent stretch of the Wandsworth Road is anything but wealthy-looking, and precisely the sort of neighbourhood whose prospects are likely to be uplifted by the appearance of a major public transport node. But it's the area beyond the railway at the cul-de-sac end of Pascal Street that developers truly have their eye on. This is central London's biggest regeneration area, with the potential for 16000 new homes, and a pedestrian link to Nine Elms station is a necessity. The moated cuboid fortress of the American Embassy will be a short stroll away, not that the ambassador would ever dream of taking public transport when there's a bulletproof limo on call. The surrounding housing development, unimaginatively named Embassy Gardens, is already under construction, if levelling the ground and piling up portakabins counts. As for the famous New Covent Garden Market, that intends to squeeze into a smaller corner of its existing site to enable the construction of more towers, so come enjoy the Sunday boot sale while you can. It's clear that the demographic profile of Nine Elms' new residents will be in complete contrast to the community along Wandsworth Road, as moneyed Londoners suddenly decide they might be happy living just beyond Vauxhall after all. A development whirlwind is coming, entirely independent of the fate of the Power Station, but a new Northern line station wouldn't half speed things up.

Battersea: The station might be called Battersea, but the location isn't. The real Battersea's further upstream, further inland, whereas this is much more Nine Elms... except that name's been taken. Those four iconic chimneys, the cylinders that used to belch smoke but now stand crumbling, they're the magnet that draws the Battersea name here. They're also due to be knocked down shortly, and replaced if you believe the Malaysian developers. The Northern line's new terminus is destined to appear on the southern perimeter of the power station site, amid a grey tarmac expanse long since cleared of any industrial outliers. It's hard to imagine the area as offices, apartments and malls, but that's what's scheduled if the developers get their act together. Alight here for a nice meal, a multiplex cinema and the chance to rummage through arcades of designer handbags. For now the only hospitality in the immediate neighbourhood comes from The Duchess across the road, local pub of choice for the extensive council estates immediately beyond. Their residents are about to discover untold facilities on their doorstep, or else be priced out of the area altogether. Close by is Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, also ridiculously well located for the new station, which may be good news for waifs and strays yet to be born. And there are the railways. This corner of the capital already has half a dozen railway lines passing through, some from Waterloo, others from Victoria, the only problem being nobody's built any platforms immediately alongside the power station. Queenstown Road and Battersea Park stations may be five minutes distant, but you can't expect penthouse residents or Gucci buyers to walk that far, and they're only rail stations so apparently they don't count. These days only a tube connection is good enough, and that's the sole reason the Northern line is coming. If it comes. The Nine Elms development needs the station and the station needs the development - vicious circle, or superfeedback loop?

A public consultation into the Northern line extension is currently underway, with the first public event this Friday and Saturday on Nine Elms Lane. Have your say, you never know, it might make a difference.

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