Explosive end for Staffordshire cooling towers

The town of Rugeley has bid farewell to its four, 117m high concrete cooling towers that have dominated the skyline for decades, after a controlled collapse demolition event yesterday (Sunday 6 June).

Members of the community watched the livestreamed event to remove the last major component of Rugeley B Power Station following the plant’s closure in 2016.

ENGIE, the energy, services and regeneration specialist, which formerly operated the station, will now start on plans to redevelop its site into a low-carbon mixed use community. It will be the first time a major UK energy company will lead the repurposing of one of its own sites.

Rugeley B Power Station, which was opened in 1970, ceased generation in 2016. In 2018 ENGIE announced plans to transform the former 1 GW coal fired station into an entirely new community.

After three years of extensive community engagement and planning, authorities granted outline planning permission in April this year, to deliver a mixed-use development of 2,300 new low carbon homes with a low-carbon all through school. The wider Rugeley masterplan also includes more than 12 acres of employment space, a new neighbourhood centre and a country park alongside the River Trent – providing access to a section of riverside which has been inaccessible for decades.

ENGIE says it will look to use a number of innovative technologies and community energy solutions, including onsite renewable energy generation and smart homes which incorporate battery and solar PV solutions.

Colin Macpherson, divisional CEO for ENGIE UK & Ireland, said: “The next ten years are crucial to address the climate crisis – and in the same timescale this regeneration project will become a reference of sustainable living, fit for the UK’s net-zero future. The local people have been at the heart of every decision, concept and planning application, with our teams determined to deliver something special for the people of Rugeley – that will inject new life, jobs, homes and education into the community.

“This is a really meaningful example of building back greener and better in the wake of the Covid pandemic and we are lucky to have had the backing and support of Cannock Chase District Council, Lichfield District Council and Staffordshire County Council to bring this to fruition. We hope this regeneration could become a blueprint for other UK former carbon intensive industrial centres to create positive outcomes for their communities compatible with a net-zero future.”

Cannock Chase Council’s leader, councillor Olivia Lyons said: “This is both an exciting and emotional day for the community. It’s exciting as it shows ENGIE’s ambitious plans for this brownfield site are starting to become reality, yet emotional too for our community. Local people like myself have grown up with the towers being such a dominant feature in the local landscape and they are visible for miles around.

“From today an icon of Rugeley is no more but there is no doubt a bright future is on the horizon, with welcome new homes, the planned all-through school, premises for businesses and leisure facilities including a new riverside country park the whole community will be able to use and enjoy.

“We may be saying goodbye to the towers and to an element of our local industrial past but we must now look forward to an environmental future where responding to climate change will feature for both ENGIE as site developers and the Council with its commitment to economic recovery and health and wellbeing in Rugeley, and across the District.”