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Touring Britain bit by bit with a pair of boots, a few bicycles, a lot of trains and a bag of lenses. I take pictures and then I write about them.

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Sat, 27 Mar 2010

Battersea, in all its desolation

So Beautiful Britain magazine a magazine that I could find no evidence of anybody having ever heard of is putting out press releases about their latest "survey". It's a survey of Britain's worst eyesores and best loved buildings. But wait, doesn't that press release get a little bit, er, weird?

Beautiful Britain magazine stresses need for more red tape and launches e-petition.

some PR bollocks


Turns out that the purpose of the survey is not entirely to attract publicity for the magazine that nobody has heard of. Rather it's a chance for some poor provincial nimbys with money enough for a PR company to push their grudge against the planning laws. Their meaningless survey has come up with some brilliantly bizarre and entertaining "facts", though.

  1. Three quarters of Britons live within six miles of an eyesore. FACT.
  2. "A staggering 68% of Brits want to see more red tape."
  3. "Most Brits (82%) claim that wind farms are noisy and destroy the countryside" another reminder that ignorance should be no barrier to having an opinion.
  4. Three quarters of Brits prefer "old-style buildings" to "run-down industrial estates". Presumably the other quarter are quite fond of the nation's run-down industrial estates.

The main purpose of the press release then is to promote Beautiful Britain's publicity stunt petition to the prime-minister:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to defend, encourage and enhance local democracy in the planning process, ensuring that everyone has a voice in decisions about large-scale and significant developments that affect them, and so deliver urban and rural communities that people can live and work in and enjoy.

Submitted by Rob Yarham of Beautiful Britain Magazine

Number of signatures? Five.

I hesitate to make fun of absurd press releases and publicity flops like this because the hyperactive children in PR will, on cue, claim that the fact that somebody is making fun of it means that it must have been a PR triumph. But by that meaningless metric, this one has already been a triumph: everyone is already making fun of the parochial nimbys at Beautiful Britain for including two of Britain's best loved landmarks in the list of eyesores: Antony Gormley's Angel of the North, and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's Battersea Power Station:

Battersea Power Station

Europe's largest brick building, a great art deco cathedral of industry and progress, literally the source of our power, the light that lit our homes for fifty years.

Battersea Power Station

A cavernous hall hung with golden brown bricks that light up each time the sun goes down over Chelsea Bridge.

Battersea Power Station

It is true that Battersea Power Station makes the eyes sore.

Battersea Power Station

And it makes the heart ache.

Battersea Power Station

A building that is such a part of the nation's history and heritage and culture from its fundamental position in the development of the modern city infrastructure, through the iconic films and album artwork that defined an era, to the time that it decided to catch fire and have a blackout on the day that they had wanted to launch BBC Two.

Battersea Power Station

Now roofless and rotting, surrounded by rubble in a neglected neighbourhood.

Battersea Power Station

Empty inside, where once there were great panels of art deco controls for early electronics, quietly keeping the city moving through every shift and surge.

Battersea Power Station

Paint peeling on crumbling chimney stacks supported by scaffolding that could fall in the next storm, already too late to save.

Battersea Power Station

It is in this desolate state of destruction because nimbys and greedy developers have pissed around for thirty years with toy models and red tape. Beautiful Britain have cited this "eyesore" as evidence that planning laws need reform to give more power to local people to block modern eyesores in favour of the good old fashioned "old-style" old buildings from the good olden days, which three quarters of Brits would prefer to see in place of run-down industrial estates. Meanwhile, the actual local people of Battersea fight tirelessly to save their monument of maturing modernity from the red tape of the councils and the bullshit of the developers who calmly stand by watching the clock count down the remaining days before it simply topples over in the wind and washes away into the river.

Planning laws, corrupt councils and ineffective politicians really do alienate local people. They make it difficult for local people to improve their homes and communities, and easy for outside companies to come in and mess up. That makes people feel helpless, ignored, oppressed, and angry. There is a productive reaction to this: to organise and fight for the right progress and the right improvement. And there is a counter productive reaction: to oppose modernity whatever its individual merit, and hide away in a sickly-sweet mock-tudor facade of "Beautiful" Britain.

Battersea Power Station

Catch it while you can. "The ruins of Battersea Power Station" are exhibited on the south bank of the River Thames from now until their collapse. Nearest tube: Pimlico.

[Tag] Tags: architecture, art deco, battersea power station, derelict, good locations, industry, locations, london, nimbyism, photo essays, pr, structures, uk, urban decay, urban

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My other blog is a...
  • Science blog! A blog about cancer cell and molecular biology, coming soon...
  • Skepticism blog! I contribute to the group blog Lay Science on the nature of science, skepticism, and bad arguments.
  • Science publishing blog! It's called Journalology and it's a group blog about publishers, journals, papers and data.
  • Fiction blog! Where I make stuff up, coming soon...
  • Cycling and transport policy blog! I run the group blog At War With The Motorist, where we look at evidence-based urban planning and transport policy, and ride bikes.

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