Going, going, gone: Rugeley Power Station cooling towers demolished

Going, going gone – the four cooling towers which have dominated the skyline of Rugeley have been demolished in a controlled explosion.

The structures – around 117 metres high – were brought down as part of the latest phase of demolition at the former Rugeley Power Station.

Company ENGIE hopes the full demolition of the site will be completed by the end of the year, ahead of redevelopment plans taking shape.

Watch the demolition:

A total of 2,300 low-carbon homes, employment space, parkland and an all-through school will be built on the site once demolition is complete.

The cooling towers at Rugeley Power Station were demolished

Watch more footage of the cooling towers being demolished:

Lilly Patterson, aged 11, who lives in Rugeley and studies at Redbrook Hayes Community Primary School, was chosen to push the button – which triggered the demolition – after entering a competition setting out how she imagined the town would look in 2030.

The 11-year-old said: "When it first came through and I was told I was very excited and I told her [her mother] she couldn't do anything else, it was very important. I think it was big because I would've watched it anyway, to know I've pushed the button is amazing.

People gather to watch the demolition of the Rugeley Power Station cooling towers

Her mother Rachel McCutchen, aged 33, added: "We were very excited and we feel very privileged to be here [to push the button]."

Councillor Olivia Lyons, who is the leader of Cannock Chase District Council and is also a councillor for Rugeley Town Council, said she was feeling very emotional after the towers came crashing down.

The demolition captured by a drone. Photo: Liam Atkins

She said: "It's really strange because I've lived in Rugeley all of my life and I've got that emotional connection to it as well – it was an emotional day, but it's been exciting because it's the first sort of real sign we can see of what we're doing for the future.

People gather to watch the demolition of the Rugeley Power Station cooling towers

"I think the plans ENGIE have for the site are exciting too and I love the fact it's green energy as well [low-carbon homes], it's almost like a natural progression for the site.

"There's certainly a void there now [since it's been demolished] because it's something we're all used to seeing, but it's an incredible opportunity for regeneration."

Footage of the demolition captured by drone. Photo: Liam Atkins

The demolition also interrupted a local football match.

See the footage sent in by Dave Smillie:

Colin Macpherson, chief executive at ENGIE for place and communities, said: "I would say, first of all, it was a successful day and it was a successful and safe demolition of the cooling towers by our partners, which is great to see.

"I think many of us have remarked about this and it really is a day of mixed emotions because of the history of the site and how it contributed to the local area as well, but it's also a day where we can see the future ahead of us – we want the redevelopment to be integrated in the local community, we don't want it to just be an island, we want it to be something part of a brighter future for Rugeley."

A train passes shortly after the towers are demolished

Lisa Dunning, a member of the Power for All campaign group which aims to give people a say in the regeneration of the town, said the demolition was a "poignant moment".

She said: "There's people who are happy to see it go, but some are quite upset because of the history and their connection to it. It's a poignant moment in time for a lot of people locally.

"I think it's good there's a plan for the site and it will not be left as a derelict brownfield site, it'll be regenerated, and I'm just interested to see what the future holds.

Watch drone footage of the demolition:

"I know my own children use it [the towers] as a marker when they're on their way home, it's a landmark and there's been a lot of people taking photographs of it, because once it's gone it's gone – I think it'll be missed as a landmark."

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, UK Energy Minister said: "We are committed to building back greener from the pandemic and ENGIE’s low carbon regeneration project is a great initiative demonstrating how industrial sites can be revitalised to provide sustainable living.

"This innovative redevelopment will help breathe new life into the local community, providing new jobs, thousands of low carbon homes and a new school, while supporting our ambitious climate commitments."

Exclusion zone

The demolition, which had been due to commence at 11am, was pushed back to 11.25am to accommodate plans for a commemoration event at the National Memorial Arboretum at 11am and on-site delays.

An exclusion zone – due to the size of the towers – was put in place and extended along the A51 between the Trent Valley roundabout and the new Hawksyard Estate with the diversion signposted.

Residents were advised to stay in their homes and watch the demolition – the ninth to take place at the site – from the safety of their own homes, with no public viewing area available due to Covid-19 safety measures.

A new view of Rugeley without the cooling towers

This led to nearby streets being flooded with cars, with people also standing on their doorstep, to catch a glimpse of the cooling towers as they were doing – as well as filming the historic moment.

Christine Jones, who lives with husband Brian Jones in nearby Priory Avenue, said: "We've lived here for about seven years now and when we first moved in we couldn't wait to see them gone, but now we think they're quite iconic so it's emotional for us.

"We were actually in two minds about buying a house here because of the towers, but now we miss them – they were a landmark. We were just saying how how the demolition experts must be so great to get it to come down – I think the plans for the site are good for the area."

Brian added planners needed to ensure there was the correct infrastructure was in place for the 2,300 homes and all-through school planned on the site.

Sarah McGeever, who lives on nearby Canon Lane, said: "It's sad to see them go, to be honest, they were here when we moved in and it's quite sad actually.

Alex Edwards, of Rugeley, and his son Theo Edwards, aged six, watched the demolition

"I'm a carer in the community and when I go out to work quite a lot of my old people will remember it, so I videoed it for them. They're quite upset by it because of the history they have with it.

"But I think the plans are a good idea, we need another school anyway in the area and hopefully it will help regenerate parts of the town."

Michelle Salmon, who also lives on Canon Lane, said: "I've not too long moved into the area so I've just got to grips with the history, so seeing it gone so soon after that it's like 'oooh' because it's a major landmark.

"It helps you find your way home – you know it's not too far away when you see them, so I'm going to definitely miss them. I think the plans will be very good for the area, it's only going to be positive – creating jobs for people in the area.

"I watched it through the live stream and filmed it with my phone through the window too."

Meanwhile a football match played in Rugeley was brought to a standstill as footballers – on both sides – stopped as the cooling towers, in the backdrop of the pitch, were demolished in the controlled explosion.

The cooling towers at Rugeley Power Station were demolished

Meanwhile, Rugeley Town Council said on social media: "Sunday marks the end of an era for our little town, and the town council have been looking at ways to commemorate our rich history, whilst looking forward to new ideas and greener ways to power our town."

The council revealed they, along with the Arts Council, Zero Carbon Rugeley, ENGIE, Fourth Tower and local schools, were developing an "exciting exhibit" called The Energy Arts Project.

It will see 3D printed cooling towers, made from recycled sugar cane and wood pulp, form collars around trees on a walk from the Rugeley town centre down to the development site.

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