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Rugeley power station closes weeks earlier than expected

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Rugeley Power Station has closed weeks earlier than expected after burning the last of its coal reserves.

The facility, which has been operating for more than 40 years, had been scheduled to shut at the end of this month. But its link to the National Grid was cut yesterday after it stopped producing electricity.

A total of 120 jobs were expected to be lost at the end of June, with 30 workers remaining on site for a further nine months as part of the decommissioning process.

Owners of the site, French firm ENGIE, confirmed this was still the case.

George Adamson, leader of Cannock Chase District Council, said it was 'very sad' that the station had closed early.

And people took to social media to mourn the demise of its iconic towers.

Councillor Adamson said: "They stopped taking coal deliveries some time ago, and since then they have been burning the remaining coal off.

"They have burned through the coal quicker than they expected and have now closed earlier than expected.

"It is very sad. The iconic towers have stood there as long as I can remember. There are lots of sports facilities on the site and they have been served with their notice. They have 12 months and they need to be gone."

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The closure is also a blow for the local economy. The station has been the council's biggest business ratepayer and its demise will leave the authority with a multi-million pound deficit.

An application has been made to central government to help plug the gap, but as of yet the council is yet to hear back.

Councillor Adamson said: "The big challenge for the council in the next two years is the early closure of the power station Rugeley Power Station, which equates to a loss of around nine per cent of its our business rates.

"We have got some reserves and applied to the Government for interim funding to cover the expected shortfall but they have not responded.

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"Hopefully the new arrival of Mill Green designer outlet village will pump in a few million but that won't be for a while and we need to plug the gap in between."

An ENGIE spokesperson said: "Rugeley Power Station in Staffordshire has ceased market operations, switching off its remaining generation unit today.

"The closure, which was announced in February 2016 following consultation with employees and unions, was due to the deterioration in market conditions for UK coal-fired power generation and is in line with ENGIE's strategy to move towards a less carbon-intensive energy system.

"ENGIE would like to once again thank everyone at Rugeley for their contribution to its business, for their loyal service to the power station and the important part they have all played in its safe, successful operation over the years."

Chase MP Amanda Milling said it was a 'desperately sad day', adding: "While closure was due to come at the end of this month, its operation was always going to be dependent on how much coal was left.

"In my visits in recent weeks it was clear that the coal supply was depleting very quickly. Our focus now has got to be on supporting the staff It is a desperately sad day all round."

The closure of the power station has been in the offing for some months now. It was announced back in November 2015 that the Government had introduced new plans to close all polluting coal-fire power stations, including Rugeley, by 2025.

A future use for the site is to be determined, but it will take at least five years to redevelop – with demolition and decontamination likely to take three years alone.

Work will then get under way to demolish the plant after a nine-month decommissioning period. It is expected to take three years to raze the power station to the ground. It had been generating 1,000 megawatts, enough electricity for around one million people.

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