Early start for power station's end
Published 25/07/2014 | 13:34
Power company RWE npower has been criticised for plans to demolish a power station's cooling towers in the middle of the night - because local people want to watch the landmarks disappear.
The three southern towers of Didcot A power station in Oxfordshire are due to be brought down by more than 180kg of explosives on Sunday between 3am and 5am.
The time chosen by npower on health and safety grounds has left some locals angry because it will be dark when the explosions happen and the towers collapse. They have instead been told to watch it online via a specially-arranged webcam.
Christine Reardon, 44, who was born and raised in Didcot, organised an unsuccessful online petition asking npower to change the timing which raised more than 3,000 signatures.
She believes that an organised viewing area should have been arranged as people will still head out to see the end of a landmark that helped shape the town over the last four decades.
"I would say 90% of people I know will be out there watching it," she said.
"I think it (the plan) is going to backfire because people will be moving and driving around to find places to watch.
"People think they have to get in close to watch because the places they were going to watch from, it's hard to see in the dark."
The coal-fired power station ceased generating in March last year after dominating the skyline around the town since 1970, with the neighbouring gas-fired Didcot B continuing.
The towers' appearance was not universally appreciated with many people finding them an eyesore.
But others have questioned the plan to get rid of the towers in the middle of the night.
Didcot town council voiced its disappointment, with a statement on its website saying councillors would be "among many residents and others getting up early to see them go".
It continued: "The council recognises that the contractors have a skilled and potentially dangerous task to perform and that public safety is paramount.
"The town council has a record of supporting initiatives in the town and could have been involved with other stakeholders in organising a community event.
"However, like most other people we had no idea of the proposed date until recently so there has been no opportunity to organise an event safely, responsibly and effectively.
"RWE npower clearly don't want to be involved in such an event and without their co-operation it is not possible."
Npower said it had taken its decision on safety grounds after consulting organisations including the Health and Safety Executive, Network Rail, the Highways Agency, Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police.
A spokesman said the timing followed six months of careful consultation, preparation and planning by experts who considered the risk of people getting too close to the explosion, and the impact of the dust cloud on local roads and a nearby rail line.
He said: "We are acutely aware that this first part of this demolition is an issue which local people feel strongly about, however safety has to come first.
"Explosive demolition can be dangerous if not managed in a professional and co-ordinated manner; it is with this in mind that we would advise people not to attend the demolition. Explosive demolitions can also cause a cloud of dust which will travel in the direction of the wind, which can change at any time."