Berkeley lines up to assess £5.5bn project that crashed into administration this week

Developer Berkeley has confirmed it is interested in bidding to buy the site of the grade-1 listed Battersea Power Station scheme out of administration.

Chairman Tony Pidgley told Building he would be assessing the £5.5bn development project, which crashed into administration with debts of over £500m on Monday.

Alan Hudson and Alan Bloom at Ernst & Young were appointed administrators to the scheme, and are thought to be looking to sell the site as a package.
Asked if he was interested in looking at the scheme, Pidgley said: “Obviously it’s about whether everything is right. But the short answer is yes.”

Pidgley, whose firm Berkeley has recently purchased the 52-storey Beetham Tower scheme on Blackfriars Bridge Road out of administration, declined to elaborate further on potential plans for Battersea.

Other developers thought to be interested in the scheme are understood to be Development Securities and British Land. Chelsea Football Club has also been linked to the scheme, having engaged former Land Securities London boss Mike Hussey’s development vehicle Almacantar to study the project.

Four subsidiaries of Battersea Power Station Shareholder Vehicle Limited, the project holding company 54% owned by Irish developer Real Estate Opportunities (REO), went into administration with debts of £502m.

Of that £324m is owed to Lloyds Banking Group and Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), and £178m to entrepreneur Victor Hwang’s Oriental Property. REO said in November that the subsidiaries were “currently not in a position to satisfy these demands for repayment.”

REO said in a statement the administration does not apply either to REO itself or to holding firm Battersea Power Station Shareholder Vehicle Limited.

The news came as architect Terry Farrell & Partners called for a radical new approach to tackling the scheme, which has now defeated four separate attempts, including one by Hwang, to redevelop it. Sir Terry said: “We have to learn lessons from the problems that have thwarted previous attempts to redevelop this landmark.”

Ian Simpson, co-founder of Ian Simpson Architects, which was working with Rafael Viñoly’s design on the detail of the £50m first phase, said: “It’s all very disappointing. I’m hoping that at some stage the project will move forward. It would be a shame if everyone’s time and effort over three years to get planning permission were wasted.”

Simpson said the speculative proposal from Terry Farrell & Partners was simply to be expected. “I’m sure everyone is going to come up with proposals now. It [Farrell’s proposal] is a ‘something I prepared earlier’ scenario, so I presume it has just been tweaked.”