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.”
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
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.
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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