Didcot power station: Last stand for iconic cooling towers

Local landmark: the coooling towers. Picture: Lee Ingram/www.airexperiences.co.uk

Local landmark: the coooling towers. Picture: Lee Ingram/www.airexperiences.co.uk

First published in News
Last updated
Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

ANYONE who is asleep in Didcot in the early hours of tomorrow can expect to be woken up, if not by the explosion then by cheers from the crowds.

Some time between 3am and 5am, 44 years of Oxfordshire history will come crashing down in a cloud of dust when three of the six 325ft cooling towers at Didcot A power station are demolished.

And despite RWE npower’s attempts to dissuade people from gathering to watch, by holding the demolition at an antisocial hour, crowds are expected.

The Earth Trust has invited people to come and watch from Wittenham Clumps, just outside town, and more will be watching in Didcot itself.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advised RWE to hold the demolition as early as possible over fears people would start panicking if the inevitable dust cloud started to drift.

An HSE spokesperson said: “This type of demolition inevitably generates a large, unpleasant cloud of dust that may extend well beyond the exclusion zone boundary, depending on the prevailing weather conditions on the day.

"While this doesn’t create a significant health and safety risk for the majority of the population, our experience shows that the sight of a large, looming cloud can cause anxiety and create crowd management problems.

“To that end we support the scheduled timing as it stands and the agreed arrangements in place to safely manage the work activity and public interest.”

RWE also asked Network Rail for a possession order of the nearby railway to make sure no train services were put at risk.

Network Rail spokeswoman Victoria Bradley said the possession order was granted following reassurance from RWE “that by 7am the line will be in a state whereby it can be handed back to us and reopened safely.

“It is up to npower to plan how they will ensure this.”

Oxford Mail:

Last look: Above, a picture taken from a balloon flight over the site, organised by John Rose, of Oxford Balloon Company. Below: Adam Hazell, of transport charity Sustrans, took this picture from National Cycle Network Route 5, which runs around the power station

Oxford Mail:

The Highways Agency said they had agreed the 3am to 5am time slot over concerns about the safety of the nearby A34, from which drivers can easily see the power station.

Spokesman Andrew Broughton said: “We’ve advised that the safest time would be when traffic flows are at their lowest.”

Milton Road and Purchas Road will be closed and police will be at the scene.

Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Rhianne Pope said: “Our role will be providing support to our partners and ensuring the safety of the public.

“Police officers from the South Oxfordshire neighbourhood teams will be supporting the construction company in stewarding the demolition. Roads policing officers will be working with highways to reduce the impact on the road network and keep roads flowing.”

RWE also said it consulted “air traffic control” while making the decision.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Richard Taylor said: “As far as I am aware we were not consulted on the timing of the demolition, but we were informed. That said, the chosen time does seem to be quite appropriate.

“We will be issuing what is known as a NOTAM to pilots advising them of the demolition. There will be no effect on passenger flights.”

RWE said the towers will be floodlit during the demolition and the demolition will be streamed live online.

Coal-fired Didcot A closed in March last year following a European Commission directive but gas-fired Didcot B remains.

Power Lines

1964: The Government approves the power station scheme. Excavation work begins as part of construction of Didcot A

1970: The station generates electricity for the first time

1984: Power station rumbles on as miners around the UK strike in protest against pit closures. Picket holders from South Wales stage a round-the-clock demonstration outside the plant

1997: Gas-fired Didcot B, capable of producing 1,360 megawatts of electricity, is built alongside the coal-fired station

2006: Greenpeace break into Didcot A as Prime Minister Tony Blair visits the county and paint ‘Blair’s Legacy’ on the 650ft stack. The disruption to power generation costs £690,000

2008: It is announced Didcot A is likely to close by the end of 2015

2009: Twenty Camp for Climate Action protesters break into Didcot A and occupy the tall chimney and a coal conveyor

2010: Staff at Didcot A celebrate 40 years of generating electricity

2012: RWE npower confirm that Didcot A will close on March 31, 2013

2013: Didcot A closes in March

2014: Demolition of Didcot A begins.

Contest for best picture

A HOUSING developer has launched a photography competition to capture the moment Didcot’s iconic 325ft cooling towers are demolished.

Persimmon Homes Wessex is looking to commemorate the event, opposite its Great Western Park development.

Sales and marketing director Pauline Fletcher said: “This is quite a historic moment for Didcot and we thought it would be great to capture it for posterity by launching this photographic competition.

“The cooling towers are of huge significance in the town and many local residents have lived with them all their lives.

“Whilst many people may well be glad to see them go, it will certainly have a dramatic effect on the landscape.”

The closing date for entries is Friday, August 8, and they should be sent to wesssales@persimmon homes.com

The winner will be announced on August 11 and will receive a £100 Sainsbury’s voucher.

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Comments (5)

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1:07pm Sat 26 Jul 14

piper2011 says...

Buildings come down all over the world and they create dust clouds and there is no mass panic, obviously the people of south oxfordshire cant be trusted to keep calm !!!!!!
Buildings come down all over the world and they create dust clouds and there is no mass panic, obviously the people of south oxfordshire cant be trusted to keep calm !!!!!! piper2011
  • Score: 1

10:36pm Sat 26 Jul 14

jochta says...

The picture from NCN5 is of the northern cooling towers. These three are not being demolished in the morning.
The picture from NCN5 is of the northern cooling towers. These three are not being demolished in the morning. jochta
  • Score: -5

3:22am Sun 27 Jul 14

CtrlAltTab says...

Live stream is rubbish, constant drop outs and no sound.
Also adverts! lots of them multiple times!

This whole thing has been badly handled from the start, and the end is embarrassing to all those that worked at DPS.

Camera man needs to stop whistling too, very unprofessional!
Live stream is rubbish, constant drop outs and no sound. Also adverts! lots of them multiple times! This whole thing has been badly handled from the start, and the end is embarrassing to all those that worked at DPS. Camera man needs to stop whistling too, very unprofessional! CtrlAltTab
  • Score: -3

3:47am Sun 27 Jul 14

WellLookyHere says...

I find it hard to believe that this is about public getting covered in dust. As if these sort of people worry about that, there’s a buck to be earned. And as somebody already pointed out on another article – they haven’t really been that worried about pumping out some nasty emissions on the locals for the last 40 years. Why worry now? What’s the real reason to be setting of explosives in the middle of the night in a residential area?
How many demolitions have been done in the light of day in the past throwing dust out in all directions? Never has been a problem and never will be as far as these companies are concerned. Local establishments offering viewing points and are then subsequently talked out of it. Public dissatisfaction shown through means of a petition to let the Didcot locals watch at a reasonable time. All to no avail. The adamancy over such a small request is ridiculous.
Everything with the capitalist greed machine is underhanded – done under the cover of darkness.
I would say they don’t mind you getting covered in and breathing in the dust, they just don’t want you to see it in the light of day.
That or they have no faith in their own safety precautions.
I find it hard to believe that this is about public getting covered in dust. As if these sort of people worry about that, there’s a buck to be earned. And as somebody already pointed out on another article – they haven’t really been that worried about pumping out some nasty emissions on the locals for the last 40 years. Why worry now? What’s the real reason to be setting of explosives in the middle of the night in a residential area? How many demolitions have been done in the light of day in the past throwing dust out in all directions? Never has been a problem and never will be as far as these companies are concerned. Local establishments offering viewing points and are then subsequently talked out of it. Public dissatisfaction shown through means of a petition to let the Didcot locals watch at a reasonable time. All to no avail. The adamancy over such a small request is ridiculous. Everything with the capitalist greed machine is underhanded – done under the cover of darkness. I would say they don’t mind you getting covered in and breathing in the dust, they just don’t want you to see it in the light of day. That or they have no faith in their own safety precautions. WellLookyHere
  • Score: 1

3:55am Sun 27 Jul 14

CtrlAltTab says...

They now have people within the exclusion zone, so maybe it should have been during the day!

Also live stream is again down!
They now have people within the exclusion zone, so maybe it should have been during the day! Also live stream is again down! CtrlAltTab
  • Score: -4

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