The decline of Battersea’s industries which started in the 1970s is now virtually complete, and the riverside has become dominated by large scale housing developments, mostly flats. The often-told tale that there were plans to change the name of North Battersea to new Chelsea is probably just wishful thinking but certainly as prices rocketed north of the river, there was a move south in search of more affordable property.
The consequence is of course that in its turn riverside Battersea is rapidly becoming one of the more expensive parts of London with little chance for those hoping to start on the property ownership ladder. The older Victorian houses on streets referred to as the ‘Sisters’ and ‘Little India’ (pictured) have also shot up in value, and older residents of these areas can become isolated as the younger members of their family are forced to move elsewhere in search of cheaper housing.
Attempts by pressure groups such as the Battersea Society to press for more affordable housing in new developments meet with mixed success, and it seems as though the current redevelopment of Battersea Power station will be little different.
Away from the river the area is still dominated by council-built housing estates, like the Winstanley, near Clapham Junction station, the Surrey Lane estate, and the Patmore and Doddington and Rollo estates in the Nine Elms area. Much of the this housing is still in council hands, although private landlords do own a considerable number of properties, especially on the smaller developments like the Somerset estate. The crime rate on these estates is much lower than it used to be, but there are still many social problems to tackle and the current austerity regime in central and local government imposes its own new challenges.
Further south beyond Battersea Rise, Northcote Road has become a magnet for the young professionals who make up an increasing proportion of the population here. There is no shortage of bars and cafes for them to gather after work. While the popular local market (left) continues to thrive, long-term residents have become increasingly concerned as their local independent shops disappear to be replaced by bars and cafes. The shops leave because while they may be valued in theory, in practice the profit level from local customers does not balance against the rising business rate which follows in the wake of rising property rental values.
Battersea still has many advantages. In practical terms it has good transport links. There may be no tube station yet, but there are easy bus links to stations north of the river, and Clapham Junction – gradually going through a phase of much needed improvements – is a major hub for travelling into central London via Waterloo or Victoria. The opening of the Overground has greatly improved access to the financial districts of Docklands.
However, only time will tell what benefits the large scale developments in Nine Elms will bring to the rest of the area. The opening up of the riverside walk between Battersea Park and Vauxhall will be greatly appreciated by many. But it is an open question as to how many of the large number of new jobs created will go to local people, or how transport and other services will cope with the relatively sudden increase in population. As it has done for the last forty years the Battersea Society will continue to monitor the changes, supportive wherever possible, and commenting to the relevant authority when necessary.