Bell Green Gas Holders Demolition [Begun 7th January]



You are right. 10 bays would have been created for the Livesey. I stand corrected. But I think the existing parking issues could be resolved with some signage, enforcement and guidance from the licensee, because to my knowledge there is space for cars to park behind the hall in the access road. Or even the disused tennis courts on which I did my motorcycle training with the company which moved once the last planning application went in (a loss of employment).

Of course, there are also hundreds of empty spaces in the huge car parks that are already on site. I would suggest that 10 bays wouldn’t change the habits of visitors to the Livesey and the council don’t seem interested in double yellow and pavement parking. The ones outside the hall usually display a disabled badge too, so nothing to stop them parking there.


SGN and NG will likely say that the holders are expensive to maintain. Containing gas they are. You would expect that live, flammable and potentially explosive vessels to be maintained to the highest standards. (Except they no longer contain gas, so the maintenance is the basic stop it from falling down type, and they won’t) Conversely maintaining a building that does not do anything is a waste.

What they don’t tell you is that water sealed gasholders are very simplistic. They contained gas for many, many years…safely. In the last 40 years most have been operating on unmanned and relatively unsecured sites. I have no doubt they got checked. The gas company knows their safe, they just don’t want them anymore. Stopping intruders climbing over them is probably the biggest cost. There are plenty of examples dotted around that have been decommissioned for years and no attempt has been made to demolish them. That was before the recent culling.

The point is, and I accept that leaving them as they are is expensive. Re-purposing them would make them useful and they would not be a drain on the rate payers.

Gasholders are becoming rare and those that have column guides are few and far between. The London area has a lot of the remaining examples. But they are going, fast. When the gas companies say they have 200+ to get rid of, they are also referring to the spiral/corkscrew type of which there are many. That type would be difficult to re-purposed because it is really just the bit that contains the gas. Not much to work with.

Bell Green is fortunate to have two examples that with a bit of creative effort could become the centre piece of an interesting project. Most people for better or worse agree that they are landmarks, and they are unique in style and shape.

I do not think an architect would get anywhere near the shapes of the gasholders if they were asked to plan a big project. You’ll get generic blocks of various shapes and sizes, of the same boring rubbish.

The same would have happened at King’s Cross had people not fought to save their gas holders. Now you have what most would then have said, was an eyesore. Is now the jewel in the crown at the King’s Cross project.

I don’t believe that creating a new use for the guide frames is going to cost more than constructing a new building, there must be engineers out there that are more than capable of constructing a building within a near indestructible structure. It just means developers don’t have a totally clean sheet to work with. A bit more difficult to sell to sponsors and investors maybe.

Building a supermarket and carpark could easily be achieved within the guide frames.

These gasholders are bigger than they look, if you look at the frames and divide them from top to ground level into 3 equal sections/lifts. That is the area of a building within the frame. Both holders are equipped with (and not used for a long time) a flying lift. So you could if you want add a extra section above the frames. Also as pointed out earlier, all the sections sit in a bath of water which is equivalent to 1 section below the ground level. So you have two potentially huge buildings.

As for contamination, I’m not a expert. However on a lot of sites where holders exist. They were built on fresh land. The bigger ones were added because of rapid expansion. Not sure about the Bell Green holders. I think the contamination issues arose when a holder was built on old production land like at Hove. But many were not. Some were built at the same time as the production plant, and just outlived the plant. If there is contamination, it will be in the form of sludge that is removed by a specialist at the same time as removing the Bell (the bit that holds the gas) I will of course stand corrected. I realise that the King’s Cross holders were moved. Which was one of the biggest costs and risks on that project. I don’t think it would be necessary at Bell Green and the frames are totally different to the Kings Cross type.

As I read this forum and other forums, there seems to be a idea that the gasholders are to be preserved, as gasholders. Alas their time as gasholders is up. I cannot see a reason why anything of that size would be needed now to store gas and technology has moved on. Maybe a steelworks but who would know they were there.

I’m not sure it matters whether English Heritage or the experts on what is important according to set criteria, do or do not endorse it. What matters is…are we as the critical eyes, wanting to reuse these structures for ourselves and future generations to appreciate. I think the merit is there as they are unique, will never get built again because they were built for a purpose and they evoke so much interest.

The gas industry is infuriating in it’s lethargic attitude towards conservation of its heritage. Near enough all the remnants of it’s manufacturing past have gone. The cathedral’s of the industry which I suppose are the gasholders are being flattened as quickly as it can possibly do it. Not one is operating at all now.

We all use gas in one way or another. Ok it is now natural gas. But we might not have it piped to our homes had it not been for manufacturing gas. It is probably one of the most successful industries ever and there is nothing really to see. It’s all either underground or out at sea in this country.

This is a unique opportunity for the area to do something different. Not only conserving some heritage, but to create something iconic.


Does anyone know what the current position is with the application to demolish? The proposed start date was today.


I think that the application is for permission only to demolish the holders and associated equipment.

Since one application was thrown out last year because, there was a desire to retain the holders. I guess if they can flatten the site to just weeds and rubbish they can build what they like and nobody will object to it.

If you look at the application portal on the Lewisham Council planning department you can see what is going on.

There is some quite interesting documents on there.

To me it is giving the minimum time for people to object to demolition. Not actually the period needed to execute the task.

Nobody has objected?


I believe the application last year was for the re-development of the wider site (which included the demolition of the gas holders) and was refused on various grounds.

This current application, as I understand it, is merely a permission to demolish redundant structures under Permitted Development.

The application as listed on the website gives a commencement date as today for the works.


Given the works would normally be permitted under Permitted Development, I am not sure what actual “permission” the owner needs to undertake the works here. I’m also unclear on what effect the local listing has.


I would imagine that they are permitted to take down their own property on their own land, unless otherwise instructed, which seems rather unlikely. Even with the passion and emotion which has been expressed.

In a rather crude way, I am almost curious to see them taken down.
That said, it would be nice if the structures could be repurposed somehow, once dismantled.
Maybe some of it kept and used on whatever replaced them, as a nod to the past.


I believe Councillors and the Planning Committee are considering all the options and the deadline for comments is tomorrow, so I wouldn’t expect any work to start immediately. I have also heard the Victorian Society are submitting an written objection, not that this prevents anything.

As things stand, I believe the council has to authorise the method of removal, so I don’t think they can proceed without this. This can delay proceedings, but not stop them.

The only way the council can stop the demolition, is to issue an Article 4 Direction or create a conservation area. I know the Article 4 opens the council up to the possibility of a compensation claim in the future, although some other things have to happen first. I am not sure about conservation areas.

Also, amazingly, a couple of birds nesting on the towers could halt things…

I can also confirm that both gasholders have a certificate of immunity against listing now, dated 9 January 2018 and lasting for 5 years, so little chance of getting Historic England to look again.

It would be nice, in the event that they are dismantled (as I believe they probably will be at some point), that parts of the structure are re-used on site or within Sydenham, but this needs to be agreed, or they will disappear forever.


Some further information I found about George Livesey and the Crystal Palace Company.

“Thomas Livesey [George Livesey’s father] deferred to the Board and followed their instructions in every way. When he was offered a Directorship of the neighbouring Crystal Palace Company he turned it down on the Board’s instructions. It. was said of George Livesey that this incident determined him not to be so directed by the Board. When his father was told not to become a Crystal Palace Company director, George Livesey immediately began to hope for. a directorship of that Company for himself - which in due course he was offered and accepted. In George Livesey’s early years as manager of South Met. at Old Kent Road he frequently quarrelled with the Board on policy matters and carried on the battle until he won.”

So it would appear that the Crystal Palace site was actually quite a significant thing for George Livesey and his later involvement was a sign of his determination to stand up to the board, which he did with regard to gas pricing and worker’s rights, the positive effects of which seem to have cemented his position.

A lot more information about all this in this article:

It would be interesting to try and find out more, but I think I have reached the limit of what google has to offer, with the rest being buried in local libraries.


Without trying to be argumentative about it, as fascinating as the story of George Livesey is, I am not sure it is really sufficient to use as a reason to retain and maintain such large structures, at an undetermined cost, and as of yet undecided whos expense.

There are many occasions where greatness has succumbed to progress. Sad as it is, space is at a premium, facilities, homes, and other such necessities are stretched.

I am sure if full funding could be found to purchase the land and holders from SGN, and then maintain the holders, there would be far less concern about their retention.


Thanks for the interesting insight @JamesEvans - it adds a lot to the conversation.


Here is a little timelapse I did on Saturday night, in the bowling green next to the Livesey Hall. Keep with it for the rather unexpected sunset colours on a very cloudy evening. hope things are delayed further, so I get the chance to take some more photos and timelapse when the weather clears. I’ve looked at the document prepared for SGN to archive the gasholders and I can see they appear to have spent all the money on laser studies instead of a photographer… Which is a little disappointing.

I would also point out that the site is an absolute dump at the moment and it is not because we don’t have an Aldi. The bowling green is unkempt, the benches are falling apart, the building is falling apart. It appears people use the area to burn stuff. The motorcycle training company which was moved out when the last application went in used to use some hard surface to do off-road training, which I always thought resembled some sort of tennis courts and certainly could contain some, with yet more space where the scaffolding company appear to be keeping a lorry. The memorial garden on the corner by the Livesey Hall is a stretch of tarmac with a huge pile of old furniture stacked up in the middle.

All this land, I presume from the planning applications, is owned by SGN and they are currently disrespecting it imo. There are potential facilities here, which could in actual fact be contributing towards the upkeep of the area and they are being run into the ground through apathy. It’s all very, very sad.

I also note that the original planning application for redevelopment of the other stages after Sainsbury’s declares that the Hall should be for community use. I am not clear how this is being carried out, as it would appear to be a private function hall. I certainly don’t feel invited inside, although I’m aware the Sydenham Arts group did a play there many years ago and it may be used or the occasional local meeting (hustings, the plans for Aldi etc…).

Sainsbury’s car park is also to be used for parking for patrons of the hall, yet I suspect Sainsbury’s do not permit this (they close gates now at closing time and have 4 hour limits on parking.

I was also disappointed to see the council were given money to widen the bridge on Southend Lane by the developers, but instead spent it on the roads around Bell Green, which I would argue has not had a dramatic effect on congestion. Widening the bridge would have cut congestion a great deal. I daresay some will argue against improving roads, but that’s what they got money for and what it was ultimately spent on, whether it had much effect or not.


With regards to the Livesey Hall community use, it’s interesting to note it is not listed here at all:

I’m not sure how it is possible to trust either SGN or the council, if neither seems to uphold the conditions already set.

Those conditions listed here:

The original S106 agreements secure the following obligations which have been deemed to be necessary to mitigate the impact of the development:-
• £1.034 million pursuant to clause 10 of the 1993 agreement for the purpose of widening Southend Lane Bridge. The 1993 agreement is modified so that the council no longer has to spend this money in that way. Nor does it to have to continue to account for interest which may accrue
with this sum. The council is instead entitled to use the £1.034 million towards undertaking accessibility works in the vicinity of the site;
• Affordable housing 55 Affordable Housing Units;
• Payment of £853,600 towards the accessibility works;
• Completion by the developer of works to
(a) Widen Bell Green
(b) The Spine Road
© Landscape highway land on the western side of Bell Green
• Payment of £45,000 to the council towards safety features in Perry Rise (schedule 7). This must be paid upon commencement of the stage three works;
• Provision of a travel plan. A draft travel plan must be submitted to the council within 9 months of the first occupation of the commercial workspace (schedule 8);
• Prior to the occupation of the phase 2 commercial floorspace, the owner must provide a pedestrian link through the site, running from Bell Green through Phase III then along the boundary of Phase II into Waterlink Way (schedule 9);
• Payment of £200,000 towards employment and training. This payment must be met upon commencement of the stage one works;
• Use of local labour (schedule 12);
• Provision of public art, subject to a cost-ceiling of £50,000. This must be installed within 6 months of the occupation of the Phase 2 retail floorspace.
Community use of Livesey Memorial Hall;
Use of parking spaces at Phase 1 by persons using the Livesey Memorial Hall;
• Payment of £100,000 towards improvements in Forest Hill and Sydenham Town Centres (schedule 16). This sum must be paid upon the commencement of the stage two works;
• Prior to phase 2 works commencing, the owner must provide 10% renewable energy technologies as part of the development, subject to a cost ceiling at £300,000 where the technologies cost less than that, the resulting saving is payable to the council for use in promoting renewable
energy technology. This has been provided on Phase III of the development;
• Payment of £40,000 towards ground contamination monitoring (schedule19) This payment must be made no later than 28 days prior to commencement of the stage 1 works;
• Payment of £70,000 towards CCTV camera provision and improvements. This must be paid no later than 28 days prior to the commencement of the stage 3 works;
• Phasing by the way in which any planning permissions granted by the Secretary of state may be implemented (schedule 21);
• Payment of £10,000 towards Riverview Walk improvements;
• Installation of CCTV throughout the site and along the Riverview Walk;
• Payment of £10,000 towards monitoring officer costs as a contribution towards the councils cost of employing a monitoring officer.


It may be that SGN and even the council are conspiring to find ways to bin the gasholders at any cost, and resort to deception and peoples lack of understanding of the planning laws. That is not designed to offend anyone, but I have no idea really, how it works.

I find it frustrating that SGN and other companies cannot find ways to reuse old redundant assets. It seems that…and this is a British disease…anything that has become surplus to requirements, is immediately scrapped and shoved into the annals of history. Railways, canals, gas holders and many buildings like schools, hospital’s and power stations.

Granted we may never have a need to construct these two gasholders in their current positions ever again. But once they have been lost, that is it.

They could be repurposed and become a fantastic asset to the wider community.

There has been desire to repurpose say Battersea power station, why is it so significant. It looks like an upturned table and has needed a fortune rebuilding it chimneys. It is being kept because it holds a passion in people. It has an identity.

There have been more gasholders built than power stations. I will say though that Battersea is one of the few remaining that have any sort of style. There is perhaps a case for Dungeness B on the Kent Coast. Where some effort has been put into to design aesthetic not just function.

I did once learn that if a company like British Gas (as it then was), wants to do anything to an existing asset either to improve function or maintenance it can and they do not have to get permission. Unless the alteration will have an effect on other persons effected by the alteration, usually if it got bigger.

My question was at the time.

If the gas company wanted to rebuild a currently demolished gasholder or other building within the site could they?

Answer: Providing the building was reconstructed in the same place, using the same footprint, was the same height and was for the same purpose - they could without getting permission. This was because the site and building was being used for it’s already authorised purpose. Grandfather rights I guess.

However if the site had been cleared, and for instance I brought the site and wanted to build gasholder(s) to exactly the same design, function and in the footprints as the old ones. I would need to get the planning permission again - it would be unlikely to happen.


There is a point to my focus on the flying lifts on the existing gasholders. If SGN wanted to repurpose the gasholders to say flats, they could go up to a level higher than the existing frames without much fear of revulsion from the planning authorities and objectors, because the permission to go that high already exists.

Gasholders by the very design and function are when fully inflated - solid (to look at). So putting another building that would go to that height would not make much difference. If there was any objection the gas company could make the part above the guide frames out of glass and refit the guide rollers to make it look like the crown on the 1st lift of the holder… and I don’t think anyone could complain.

What happens inside the frame is restricted to the capacity of the frame and again a fully inflated gasholder is solid.

The only difference is purpose: two GIANT flammable GAS holders or Homes and shops with parking made to look like existing buildings.

So why if they could do this, does the company want so build a supermarket on ground level only. It surely de-values the site tremendously.

You could still have Aldi on the ground level section, carparks underneath and 3 or more gasholder levels of liveable flats above. And you have conserved some history in the process. Win-win I think.

If SGN became a developer it could make millions?


The question once again is, at who’s expense?

Repurposed for what, another question which keeps arising.

I think it would be the billions of pounds poured into the regeneration of the whole area. Including the relocation of the American Embassy right in the heart of it all.
And as you rightly point out, the stacks cost a fortune to rebuild, but then that money is recoverable from the many millions each apartment is selling for.

To build within the frame of the holders would cost a fortune I would expect. The logistics alone of moving the materials up and through the frame work.
What would they then sell for?
If the frame actually suitable and in good enough condition to have a structure placed inside it?


I think someone said up-thread that with the development at Kings Cross the holders were removed from site and then reinstalled around the finished apartment building.


There’s been plenty of discussion about this in our various threads. No need for you to probe each person that suggests redevelopment. Let’s keep this topic constructive and hear everyone’s opinion please.


Yes there has been plenty of discussion on it, however I am curious to know what ideas each person has. Its on topic and relevant. There is no point in having a topic where we romantically dream about the possibilities. I’m not being mean about it, just trying to keep it realistic.
If there is an idea there which has not been discussed yet, I bow to its possibilities.

Indeed, but given the rather different housing markets of the two areas, I would suspect that the cost would be seriously prohibitive.


If people want to dream about the possibilities they are more than welcome to do so on this forum.

On the other hand, if people feel the need to run their ideas past you I’m sure they will do so. There’s no need for you to arbitrate the topic and repeat your line of questioning. It didn’t come across as friendly on the Dominos topics, and I’m not sure it does here either.


Lol wow, well I will remind you of that next time you do similar, I’m sure it won’t be long.

I will be quiet now.