Ironbridge Power Station: Calls for meaningful discussion over future of iconic landmark
Meaningful discussions need to take place to find the best possible use for the former Ironbridge Power Station, says a council leader.
Together with councillors from both Shropshire and Telford Councillor Malcolm Pate, Shropshire Council's leader says they are pleased that current owners Uniper has agreed to allow them to work with the future owners on the site's redevelopment.
It comes after stakeholders from across the county, including the two authorities, town and parish councils, the Ironbridge Gorge Museums and others met with Uniper to put forward their case for its future.
At the meeting on Wednesday, attendees were told officially for the first time that the iconic pink cooling towers will come down when the site is demolished.
Members were also told that the site will not be used for fossil fuel power generation in the future and is set to be put on the market imminently through specialist commercial real estate agents Cushman and Wakefield.
Members said it was a "productive" meeting, where they spent almost two hours discussing the future of the power station in Buildwas.
Though the power station, which closed in November 2015, sits within Shropshire Council's boundary, it overlooks the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site, and councillors from both authorities say it is important that any future development of the site offers benefits for both.
Councillor Nicola Lowery, ward member for the Ironbridge Gorge, said both council's are keen to put together a master plan for the site.
There are hopes that the huge site will have a multi-use future, with hopes that it can be used to improve roadways and infrastructure in the Gorge and have potential to improve leisure and tourism in the area.
She said: "A masterplan is very important in terms of the future of the site and for our residents."
Councillor Lowery has also been working closely with Telford Steam Railway who are hoping to extend their line south from Lawley into the Gorge through existing tracks that go into the power station, offering new access and a tourist attraction.
She said: "Uniper is hoping that lots of potential buyers will come forward, there is no one plan for the site. We are hoping to work with any future owners to explain the significance of the site.
"It is up to the councils to fully explain the opportunities it provides."
Councillor Lowery said she is also keen to make sure residents living around the site are given a say and that the demolition of the site is as unobtrusive as possible.
Uniper have now agreed to have regular working group meetings with stakeholders, to be held quarterly, as the sale of the power station goes forward.
Also in attendance at the meeting was Councillor Malcolm Pate, Shropshire Council's leader.
Councillor Pate said: "They want to sell it, dispose of it.
"We're interested in setting up a point of contact with buyers interested in purchasing the site. Because there are a lot of problems with it."
Mr Pate said the members of the meeting were first given a presentation from representatives from Uniper about how it was going to proceed with the sale of the site, before the various organisations in attendance were able to make their own representations about what they would like to see.
He said that all the members would now have the opportunity to engage with Uniper and any future potential buyers going forward.
He said he hoped the meeting, the first between the stakeholders and the owners, would allow the council to engage "in a meaningful way".
Last year, Uniper said it planned to begin demolition in the middle of this year.
It is expected that work to clear the huge site will take about three years to finish.
Work is still ongoing by Uniper, a sister company to power group Eon, to shut down the plant.
The plant was officially switched off on November 20 2015, after 46 years of service, following an EU directive.
Under the EU, ageing plants like Ironbridge were legally limited in the emissions they can produce and its operating hours were restricted in 2008. The EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive said the station had to end its life after passing the milestone of generating power for a total of 20,000 hours since January 1, 2008.