Bell Green Gas Holders Demolition [Begun 7th January]



I’m not sure any compensation that might be liable is to cover maintenance costs. It seems to cover any costs incurred in preparing for the work and presumably the loss in value of the land if development is prevented. I can’t see why volunteers would need to pay a private company to look after their own property, but I can see why said private company may want compensation for the perceived loss in value. Although we are taking about heavily contaminated land with no build zones on it and no planning permission for further development as things stand. All we are talking about really, is replacing some gasholders with wasteland. I’m not even clear if they are going to clean up the site, which probably means they are not.

Obviously, the threat of compensation is something of a threat to proper decision making, especially with council budgets so strained atm. Which is unfortunate, as it would appear to encourage the council to make decisions they may not have otherwise made, purely on financial grounds.

In any case, compensation would only be liable if the council removed permitted development rights through an Article 4 Direction and refused an application made within 12 months of the date of that direction.

I’d be happy to chip in myself and I daresay there are some other interested groups outside of this forum who may have fundraising capabilities. But I don’t think that is the most pressing issue atm really. That is buying time to actually be able to discuss the issue and publicise it, so the community can be informed and consulted prior to a decision being taken.


This extract from the Local Listing meeting:

Malcolm Tucker, one of the country’s leading industrial Engineering Historians and author of the substantial report for English Heritage (now Historic England) “The London Gasholders Survey”, commonly referred to by heritage bodies has stated that the gasholders in Bell Green are of significant historic interest due to their construction, design and architecture. His study included a study of wrought-iron lattice guide frames, and explains that this type of construction was a major break-through when first used in a gasholder at Hove in 1876. Tucker explains that there are early examples in Poplar and Kennington, and although the Bell Green holders were built a little bit later than those pioneers, they are very good examples of the early form of lattice guide frames, having standards strongly tapered from bottom to top and a three-legged, T-shaped cross-section. Tucker goes on to explain that the panels of their latticework are particularly light and well proportioned, giving them an airy appearance that is admired by many people, and that they are the nicest of their type in his opinion. Finally Tucker explains that soon after, the T-shape gave way to a plainer, I-shaped cross-section, constructed of settle, and that the Bell Green gasholders are very fine examples, of which there are very few remaining nationally of this earliest form of lattice guide frame with all except the altered example at Kennington are due to disappear.


Extract from same meeting recounting English Heritage/Historic England’s position on the matter.

Historic England were asked to statutorily list the building but in April 2017
considered that given the large numbers of gasholders and the increasing
standardisation in design, the threshold for special interest on a national level
is necessarily high, with only 16 designated examples in the country. It was
considered that the Bell Green examples were not more exemplar than other
listed examples found in London and the rest of the country.

In fairness, the minutes do also note:

On a local level however, the structures are considered to be of significant
historic, social and architectural value.

Has anyone ever approached the Victorian Society on the matter?


The Historic England listing refusal is unfortunate, because it can easily be interpreted that they are not worth saving, when realistically, it just means they don’t fit the listing criteria. But the earlier examples have already gone, except for Kennington (The Oval), which was listed first (and probably was more widely known and recognised), which pretty much bumps Sydenham off the list because it’s a couple of years older.


I understand there are plans to site a restaurant, coffee shop and supermarket on the site. This would require cleansing of the land and the cost justified by the development.
The alternative is to leave the gas holders, costly maintenance and one assumes the contamination. Perhaps parts of the holders could be incorporated into some fencing or an art project that would repurpose parts of the structure.


I still think they should build a trampoline park :slight_smile:


Great idea, but don’t people have enough places to park their trampolines?


Out if interest, who should pay for the gas holders to be retained and maintained?

  • Local Government
  • Local volunteers
  • National Government
  • A heritage group
  • Other

0 voters


One huge trampoline suspended in the middle of each holder lol, weeeeeeee


I agree with one of the previous posts - the important issue here is to buy some more time to properly consider what happens to these structures.

At the risk of again repeating a previous post, once they are gone, they are gone.

In practical terms, how can a stay of execution be achieved?


The slightly less attractive side of the site. One which seems to be overlooked at times. Should the whole thing stay?


For those who are of a view that the gas holders should stay or that the decision to demolish should be given greater time for consideration, I believe that you can make your views known by emailing (ref DC/18/106293) or by writing to The Planning Dept, Lewisham Town Hall, London SE6 4RU.

The deadline for responses is Tuesday April 10 (which to my mind seems a bit late given the application states a commencement date for the works as 09/04/18).


My understanding is that the council can issue an Article 4 Direction before any work commences, which would remove the gas holders from Permitted Development rights and prevent their demolition without a planning application.

Only if they then refused an application which would have been permitted development otherwise, which is submitted within 12 months, would they be liable to a claim for compensation, which would also have to be made within 12 months of refusal.

Of course, in practical terms, this probably just means demolition would be postponed, unless funds could be found to cover any compensation claim, as the council appear to be unwilling to open themselves up to the liability.


There were plans for that and I daresay SGN still harbour plans for that and hope that by removing the gas holders, they will get their plans through with less opposition. However, those plans were refused because of the traffic issues they would create and the perceived effect on the high street. It was also pointed out that most of the jobs created by the scheme were actually SGN employees being moved from another site, rather than new jobs. Nor was there any plan for parking provision for the Livesey Hall.

I can’t honestly see how SGN would be able to get rid of the gas holders and put in the same application and expect a different answer because the gas holders have gone.

Your point about the gas holders being reused on site is a good one and I think it’s important to remember that:

  1. this is not going to happen as things stand - they will be removed and presumably scrapped, after being recorded in visual and written forms.

  2. saving the gas holders does not necessarily mean they will stay in situ forever. Indeed, the Kings Cross holders were dismantled, sent away for two years for repair and reconditioning and then returned and reassembled in a completely different place on the other side of the canal, where they were incorporated into three housing developments and a park. But of course they were listed (or at least one was) It might be worth considering that we are talking about saving some potentially important pieces of architectural history for the future, rather than keeping an eyesore and preventing redevelopment, as some seem to have got themselves upset about.

I would like to stop the trashing of some architectural history, just because some people want an Aldi down the road. They can build an Aldi in the things if they want and I daresay there’s little that could stop that. But the gas holders would be saved from the scrap yard.


I shudder at the thought of the cost of such an action. I also doubt very much that there is the financial appetite to do such a thing in Bell Green.

The removal of the holders and what happens with the land after are two very different things and need keeping separate.
I have no doubt SGN would love to dispose of the land for a pretty penny, but I get the impression that the removal of the holders is just cost saving in the long run, and dismantling retired equipment.
I’m not sure how pressure from anyone can force them to pay to leave them there and maintain them.


I’m just going to dump a little more information here for people to consider.

The Livesey Memorial Hall was built, as the name suggests, in tribute to Sir George Livesey. Sir George Livesey was quite a force within the gas industry and ended up being involved in a lot of technological advances in the supply of gas and its pricing. But, more importantly I feel, whilst in charge of various South London gas companies (he was the chair of the Crystal Palace company based at Bell Green) he pushed through reforms that gave the gas workers shares in the company. In fact, the man appears to have been quite a nice boss, investing not only in his staff, but in the community, building libraries etc…

At his funeral, the coffin was followed by a procession of 7000 gas company employees, which seems quite a remarkable thing to me.

Prior to his involvement at Bell Green, the site was quite small, but he oversaw the expansion of the works, which is when those two gas holders were constructed. I have seen some suggestions that he would have had a hand in their design, although their construction is credited to another.

Perhaps all this explains why it was decided to build a social function hall in his memory, built out of bricks fired within the gas works itself and that hall has always stood in the shadow of the gas holders, which forever link it back to the gasworks from where it was created.


I hear a lot about how there isn’t the appetite for expensive housing in the area, yet my house has doubled in value in 8 years (it probably took place over fewer years tbh) and up the road at Catford you can buy a new 2 bed flat by a railway line for about £400,000. Barratt were given that previously public land for nothing as far as I know. Huge development on old industrial land on the old Dylon site too. It’s going on all over London and not just in the centre. I dunno if it would be possible or viable, but I also don’t know that it would be prohibitive either.


By all accounts the decontamination of the land would render development of reasonably priced houses for the area undoable.

As for the Dylon site, astonishing change of scenery there, and I have to say one of the first times I have thought borderline over developed.

The site of the gas holders is considered usable for retail or commercial


I keep hearing these anecdotes about prohibitive costs, but I am yet to see any figures or hard information. Turn it into a museum and park instead. The way these gas holders are vanishing, it would probably put Sydenham on the map.


Thats a great story and the hall will remain as testimony to his benevolent actions.
I recaĺl that the rejected plans did include parking for the hall which would take pressure off surrounding residential roads. As for traffic flows the Bell Green site is what it is, Toys r us is going what will replace it something popular increasing visitors?
As for damaging the High Street that ship has sailed, online sales are growing exponentially, the Budgen site in Sydenham is an example as with many retail to housing projects.

I will leave it there no point in discussing further my only hope is that any ongoing costs are not borne by council tax payers.