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

Telford | News | Published:

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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