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.