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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Monday, 26 October 2015

Nine Elms disease enters its repulsive fourth stage

Now look what they've done to our quickest route into central London (the Wandsworth Road, 77/87 bus routes)….and it looks like another dismal cylinder of silly yuppie-boxes is being erected, a dud Duracell AAA battery, 
sister to the stupid helicopter-killer of a building further down the road.
For the last few years I have been calling it Nine Elms Disease, but now I realise this is far too soft and benign a description for what's happening along the south shore of the Thames between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges. 

It's now looking much more like the the plague - the one that stole or ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners back in the the seventeenth century.

This cheerful thought came to me on the top deck of a 77 bus last week. It used to be the quickest, easiest and most entertaining way for people living around here to get into town -- a 77 or 87 bus along the Wandsworth Road, then over Vauxhall bridge and into Westminster, or along the embankment to Waterloo and the South Bank Centre.
Look what they've done to our river, ma….a view of the Nine
 Elms-Battersea development from Vauxhall Bridge.
Why do the words 'suppurating open sores' come to mind?

Trying this route last week for the first time in ages, we hit the same "Road closed" signs at Lansdowne Road that I remembered from about a year ago, and the hellish stop-start began again and continued all the way to Vauxhall.

As the bus turned right at the diversion, we glimpsed the closed stretch of Wandsworth Road ahead, and had to do a double take: it was unrecognisable. 

The last time I'd gone down this road, the former Sainsbury's superstore had been flattened, there were some low-rise new blocks going up, and a flashy marketing suite had been built.  

There was loads of that annoying highly colourful fencing around all the building sites, daubed with moronic and meaningless phrases.

At that time, they said the road had to be closed for improvements to the sewage pipes. No wonder, thinking of all those fat cats living in their high-rise luxury apartments. Just think of all that expensive shit being added to the system.
No, and neither did the Bubonic Plague 

But now the road's closed again, until the end of November, they say. And this time - it is clear - it's partly to allow massive trucks to unload bits of pre-fabricated luxury flat, which seem to be winched straight from a lorry, lifted high over the road by crane, and bolted onto the steel frame of the building there and then.

Yes, it is a high-end example of the plague of luxury-apartment building that is sweeping London and the south east of England. Right now, at Nine Elms, the parallels with bubonic plague are obvious - a deadly infection spread by fleas living on the furry bodies of rats.

And in this significant outbreak,  the disease has entered its most virulent stage: the bursting of the buboes: "At advanced stages of the infection the inflamed lymph nodes can turn into suppurating open sores".

Where we used to shop - food at Sainsburys, bargains of all sorts in the Sunday car-boot markets – is now one such suppurating open sore.

Oh yes, they say, but look we are giving you all two new tube stations! People of the Larkhall Estate, and the Patmore estate - fear not, you will be able to get to Kennington in less than five minutes! We'll give you a linear park and all manner of leisure and employment opportunities!

So when the plans first came out, we all thought, why are they linking it to the Northern Line, and not the much more obvious, closer solution of building a branch of the Victoria Line out from nearby Vauxhall, or even under the river to the transport node of Victoria itself?
A suppurating open sore…or in this case, a nasty
open saw of stupidly-shaped balconies

But think - where will the people living in the new million-pound-plus apartments need to get to quickly, and back from, quickly, without having to mix too much with the bumbling locals? Why, the City of London of course, and Canary Wharf! 

And this Northern Line extension will enable them to do that far more quickly. Except that the City branch of that line is already well over its saturation point at 8am weekdays….there's a train every 2 minutes and there's never room to get on. But maybe the Battersea Power Station gang will get priority through trains to Bank….nothing would surprise us.

So - as we've said before - let's at least hope that the two boroughs, Wandsworth and Lambeth,  whose populations are most badly affected by all this construction world violence, this daily mugging by men in hard hats and hi-vis vests, get some decent wads of cash out the developers. Wads that are repeated at monthly intervals over the next half-century or so.

Lambeth, for example, must be compensated for the damage to roads, to the quality of the air we all have to breathe, to the added congestion on the roads, and the danger and even death caused by those enormous lorries rushing around from building sites to cement depots all day long.

How many hundred thousand human hours have been wasted sitting in buses stuck on Lansdowne Road this year?

And what about compensation for loss of amenity? Permanent loss of beautiful views across the river? The Disneyfication of Battersea Power Station? The loss of an area we liked, no matter how scruffy it was.

It's encouraging to see the old car scrap dealers around Pensbury Place and Stewart's Road are still there. Long may they survive to provide a visible reminder that this was Battersea Marshes, considered uninhabitable until the stench of money lured  developers onto the mushy, deeply polluted alluvial soil. 

Surely these developers would hardly notice the few million it would take - for example - to ensure Lambeth could continue to provide decent public libraries to all its citizens in all wards of the borough (as opposed to gyms with a few books around, which seems to be their latest plan).

And - if they want a little quick PR coup - why not pay to put on a free firework display for everyone, to make up for the lost Brockwell Park show?

Well finally, a few more shots of this fascinating new neighbourhood. No doubt in 2022, if I live that long, I'll be enjoying the lovely linear parks of Nine Elms, jumping on the tube in Wandsworth Road, and shopping in a fab new Sainsburys superstore. But I will still be a grumpy old fucker.

A certain irony in this photo, but it could be true that refugees with a spare £2million will be very welcome in those
new high-rise blocks. Also sad to reflect that this is the spot where, in 2012,  a helicopter crashed, having struck nearby 50-storey luxury flat tower, killing both the pilot and a man walking along Wandsworth Road.

What remains of Battersea Power Station, now gift-wrapped for property developers

I can see for (a good few less) miles ….than I could before they built this weird meccano toy town

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