Poll: What next for Ironbridge Power Station's famous cooling towers?

Its towering chimneys have been an iconic feature of the Gorge for about 50 years – but their days could be numbered. Ironbridge Power Station is set to close within the next two years.

Ironbridge Power Station

And already the debate is raging about the future of cooling towers that dominate the famous valley where the industrial revolution was born.

A power station has stood on the site since the 1930s, but today’s cooling towers were created 30 years later.

  • Have your say in our online poll and in the comments box below

Under European Union directives, ageing plants like Ironbridge have been legally limited in the emissions they can produce.

Ironbridge’s operating hours were restricted in 2008 and it is now due to close at the end of 2015.

In 2012, Ironbridge was given the permission to trial the use of biofuel, bringing 100 new jobs to the station but Eon, which operates the station, does not plan to re-licence it as a biomass plant beyond 2015.

Last week, it was announced that though some old oil and coal power stations across the country would be kept on standby, Ironbridge would not be one of them.

Chairman of The Gorge Parish Council, Keith Osmund-Smith, said he would like to see the station remain operational as a biofuel station, which would help protect around 100 workers at the plant.

He said: “This is quite a complex issue. A lot of people in the Gorge have become very fond of the cooling towers and have come to love it over the years.

“A lot of people can’t quite understand why the power station has to be closed and finished with in 2015. It will have a real effect on local employment, I would like to see it continue.

“A huge amount of money has been spent to convert it to use biofuel and it just seems to be a complete waste of time and energy to close it at the end of 2015.”

Councillors at The Gorge have previously worked to get the concrete cooling towers listed, due to their unique pink hue, but the application was rejected.

One resident, Gareth Parry, 34, who has lived in Ironbridge for two years, says he thinks it is important to find a way to keep jobs, but thinks the station itself is a blot on the landscape.

He said: “I’d like to see the chimneys knocked down. I appreciate they’ve been there since the 1930s, but they’re an eyesore and in not in keeping with the rest of the Gorge.

“I’m sympathetic to people who may lose their jobs because of the decommissioning of the plant – if there’s a way it could be converted into  a hydro electric plant, people could keep their jobs and possibly even more jobs could be generated.”

The power station is clearly visible to a lot of businesses in Ironbridge, one being The Meadow Inn, which is directly opposite the famous station.

Manager of the Meadow, Sue Payne, said while she was not a fan of the iconic towers, she would miss the business that it provides.

She said: “I’m not a massive fan of the towers, I think they spoil the view of the pub, though I have only been here for three months so maybe if you are here longer they grow on you.

“We don’t get any negative feedback from guests. If it was to close, we do a lot of business through Eon which we would lose, I’m sure a lot of other bed and breakfasts in Ironbridge feel the same.

“I suppose it would all depend on what they did with the land, if they redeveloped it and did something outstanding which would bring even more people into the area then that would be fantastic. From our point of view, we would be sad to see it go.”

Scott Somerville, press manager for Eon, said: “We’re concentrating on the role the station still has to play as an important part of the UK’s energy infrastructure and as such it’s too early for us to comment on what may happen following closure. The station has played, and is still playing, an important part in the lives of many people, both directly and indirectly, and we share that same pride.”

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Comments for: "Poll: What next for Ironbridge Power Station's famous cooling towers?"


Ironbridge shuts in 2015 due to the UK signing up to the Kyoto Protocol. Basically unless energy companies spend hundreds of millions of pounds updating stations to stringent emissions limits a station is limited to 20,000 hours from 2008 or December 2015 whichever is the earliest. Meanwhile the US and China ignore this policy, with China buiding an unregulated coal fired station a week. So whatever we do in the name of the environment is nothing compared to what other parts of the world are doing and laughing at us in the process. We either spend millions on existing stations, millions on wind farms which cost seven times as much as coal fired per megawatt/hour to generate and require conventional backup or millions buying gas from Russia or the like at whatever price they care to charge us whilst sitting on our own natural resources. Or do what Canada dud, back out of the Kyoto Protocol because there is a realisation that we are simply heading for blackouts because NIMBYs won't let new station be built and archaic planning laws mean it's almost too late to build new stations in time because the timescales are outside the window of any current Parliament. Renewing or updating plant to onnerously tight standards costs money - exactly why electricity bills have rocketed. Take the shackles off the industry before it's too late.

martin tudor

Where do you live Fred? In one of areas near the station which have raised levels of chest damage due to the pollution?

The power station has already had an extension and also only continues to generate by using very controversial biofuel mass.

Russell Evans

Wind farms do not need back up. Get your silly non-fact sheet issued by the anti wind camp and tare it up.

None of our existing fossil fuel or nuclear plants are running at 100% capacity 24 hours a day.

Only if the UK were to become 100% reliable on wind would wind farms need back up from other forms of energy. Reality is, 15% of our energy needs are set in stone to be met from renewables by the end of this decade with about half of this being met from wind power.

Wind is also cheaper than coal with the cost of renewables coming down and the price of fossil fuels rising.

I don't class myself as pro wind or anti wind. I'm someone in the middle and I'm sick to death of people especially in the anti camp for issuing misleading information about our energy generation. It's time they got their facts right and stopped complaining.


I think you are getting ahead of your self. We have a power crisis coming if these power stations close. Personally I do not expect them to close in the time scales invisaged. I think Ironbridge will have a future in what ever solution comes out. The grid goes to Ironbridge so it is the logical place to build what ever replaces it.

Water is an important issue in power generation and the river severn is a reliable source of water, if properly managed. I can see a fracked gas future for Ironbridge. We will see.

Don't write it off too soon.

Cllr Stuart Parr

Kyoto started it, the EU has made sure there is no going back. The British government has committed to producing so much of our electricity by inefficient, expensive, unreliable renewable sources that these cheap, efficient and reliable plants are no longer economically sustainable. In a couple of years we're going to see the return of electricity rationing because there can't produce enough electricity to meet demand without the plants that are being decommissioned. I don't think there's ever been a government in history so willing to destroy the country.


Too right Fred.

All this Go Green / Eco Friendly is just a con.

It's all about the Dollar and how much our government can extract from our pockets.


Well said Fred !

It's just another example of how our useless leaders are intent on dragging us back to the Victorian era. Of course, they'll be alright, with their gold plated pensions, but we really are looking at black outs in our life time due to successive governments inaction on this issue.

Get your candles ready.


The site is an eyesore and is only operated as a backup.

Why not reduce the towers and the main building, then make it a museum along the same theme as Blists Hill . This will give employment and bring in more tourist income to the area, without any pollution.


I worked in the electricity supply industry for over 30 years and I agree with everything you have posted. We are being fooled into paying more in environmental subsidies to meet political dogma.

Just look at the vast amount of coal that Australia exports to China each year and our 'contribution' to so called climate change is completely insignificant.

Y Mab Darogan

The ideal solution would be to extend the Severn Valley Railway from Bridgnorth to Ironbridge, following the tracks of the old railway line and terminating at the old powerstation with stops in Coalport and Ironbridge.

It would do wonders for the museums of the Gorge and tourism in Ironbridge.

Perhaps with lottery funding it could be achieved.


I read somewhere that re opening the Severn Vally line from Shrewsbury to Worcester was being considered as a serious proposal for a combination of rural services and heritage services. I can see the logic. Nothing to do with closing the power station but an interesting side line.


Whilst there will be issues with contamination which remain to be assessed, the closing and demolition of this eyesore, which sadly is located next to a World Heritage Site, will offer excellent opportunities to further develop the tourism offer in the Ironbridge. area.

Creating something on the south side of the river on what would essentially be a 'blank canvas' has massive opportunities, especially as the site is already well connected by road.

If the Telford Steam Railway can make its way down the hill from Lawley, then a whole new 'industrial transport' museum area might be created.

The railway line through to the old Ironbridge station could also be restored - another small piece of the Severn Valley Railway!

Les Mondry-Flesch

It's all very well saying that because China pollutes the hell out of the planet, we should build loads of new coal-fired power stations, leave Buildwas open etc etc.

However, you may remember that our coal industry was closed down by a previous Prime Minister. With some 600 years' worth of coal still in the ground.

From where, pray, will we get our fuel for these power stations? Either we spend hundreds of millions of pounds reopening losed mines, or we spend billions importing coal.

Or we spend money on new technologies that we can export...............


As the national grid goes there why not build a new nuclear plant on the site ?

Oily Rag Time!

So many fibs from the morally bankrupt green bullies.

Food for thought:

Denmark has more wind turbines per capita than anywhere else in the world, and still, it has not been able to turn off a single coal-fired power plant.

Windmills are not "cheaper" than hydrocarbons once the cost of construction, maintenance and back-up supplies are all factored in.

In terms of Energy Flux Density - the measure of joules-per-gram - oil and gas have a higher EFD than coal which in turn has a far higher EFD than wood.

The term "fossil fuel" is not a proven theory for the origins of oil and gas.

There are many eminent proponents, particularly in Russia and India, for the theory that oil and gas are of Abiotic or Abiogenic origin. That is, oil and gas have a non-organic origin. They are not "fossil fuels".

The Abiogenic theory has it that oil and gas are of essentially limitless quantities, even more plentiful than water. Created at the time of the Big Bang, these hydrocarbons are trapped in the mantle of the earth. Only seeping out to the crust through fissures running along natural fault lines, where rich oil & gas deposits tend to be found.