Ironbridge cooling towers: Clean-up to begin on Monday

Staff were surveying the remains of the Ironbridge cooling towers ready for clean-up operations to begin on Monday.

The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall
The scene of destruction. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

Power station owners Harworth said as much material as possible from the cooling towers would be recycled, but the decision for how to proceed on the clean-up would be made early next week.

It is one of the key moments in a 27-month demolition project stretching across the former Ironbridge Power Station site.

The work, which has been going on since May, has drawn a huge amount of attention from people locally, especially those who loved the landmarks.

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Iain Thomson, of Harworth, said they had been very aware of role the site played in local life.

"Naturally they carry with them a great deal of good will from the public who worked there or lived nearby," he said. "These are iconic structures.

"It is always a consideration, but the reality is that structually. the towers were fairly weak. Safety is the primary concern.

"you've got a number of buildings that have been vacant since 2015 on the wider site. We've got to bring them down to bring a new future to the site."

The Environmental Agency were also in the area for the demolition of the cooling towers yesterday.

Dave Throup, Environment Agency manager for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said water quality monitoring equipment had been used on the River Severn.

Mr Throup said they were checking that no pollution issues would occur as a result of the demolition.

The demolition was part of the £10 million project to tear down the power station as a whole.

Bringing down the mammoth structures included efforts to remove 16,000 tonnes of asbestos from the towers. Hundreds of concrete posts were also removed.

Explosive charges were planted on a black ring close to the bottom of each tower, each with sufficient power to blow away the metal-framed legs which hold the towers up.

Despite more than 60 people putting their name down to press the button on the demolition, Harworth confirmed a qualified explosives engineer was needed to do the job.

What next for the site?

The future for the power station will see a whole new settlement built in its place, with up to 1,000 houses potentially making up the development.

Harworth bought the site when it was discontinued as a power station and is in the process of drawing up a master plan for the development.

Shropshire Council has included the site in one of its 'strategic development sites' – areas where large scale projects are proposed, and will make the ultimate decision on whether to approve the scheme.

Harworth has said that the project is likely to include around 1,000 new homes to be built in phases.

There will also be commercial uses, including the re-use of the site's former pumphouse and community facilities like a local centre and school.

The site after the demolition. Pic: Sam & Ed Bagnall

One of the suggestions for the project has been reconnecting Ironbridge with the main rail line to Birmingham.

Speaking in October Stuart Ashton, head of planning at Harworth, said it had been one of the issues raised by the public at a consultation on the proposal.

He said: “There’s been a huge interest in if we can use the railway line again, from steam railway groups to other passenger groups that want to get the line active.

“Not only is it a tourism route for people to come into the Gorge, but also is there is the possibility that people could use it to get to Telford and beyond instead of using their car.”

Harworth has said people will be able to view the plans once they are submitted to the council.

A spokesman said: "Local people will be able to look at the masterplan and all of its supporting documentation on the Shropshire Council website once the council has received it.

"Whilst we aren't proposing any further public consultation, all residents will be able to scrutinise and comment on the plans once published.

"Given it is one of Shropshire's key regeneration schemes, we anticipate it will take up to a year for the council to fully consider it prior to it being determined at a future planning committee."

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