Shropshire Star

Shropshire Star comment: Waiting for the dust to settle

The demolition of the cooling towers at Ironbridge Power Station must be the most sudden and most profound single change to the Shropshire landscape in history.

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The towers come down

Standing at the head of the Ironbridge Gorge since the mid-1960s, many Salopians have never known anything different.

They belched steam in huge columns and the many photos attest to the beauty of the scene – and yes, many saw in these man-made monsters a form of beauty.

Their departure will leave the biggest of big holes.

As the echoes of the detonations fade away and the dust and rubble settle, the questions will arise in their place more urgently than ever.

This was a power station constructed in the most spectacular of settings, close to the River Severn, and in the shadow of the attractive woods of Benthall Edge and close to a World Heritage Site.

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What can go in its place that does justice to such a special place? There has already been extensive consultation on the proposals which have been drawn up. It’s a mixed plan, but there will be a substantial housing element.

Nothing is going to happen soon in any event as there will be much further work to be done before the site is cleared and ready for the next steps. The visual impact of the developments which are planned will be minimal when measured up against the visual impact of the power station.

But nobody should think that that means it’s impossible to mess it up.

People became used to those massive cooling towers which loomed so large, and they will not be used to what takes their place. The power station was a functional icon, and seen through that perspective. Transforming the site into something different will to a greater or lesser extent be a shock to the system.

Just because the power station was big won’t lessen the disappointment that will be felt if what goes in its place is small yet ugly.

Ironbridge Power Station site: Handle With Care.