Monday, 17 October 2011


© Copyright Andreas-photography and licensed for reuse. This is not an endorsement.
Plans to demolish Richborough Power Station's three cooling towers and chimney have been submitted to Thanet Council, according to the Thanet Gazette. In the report, it's stated that they "cannot be retained in any future scheme, because of their location, size and speciality of use" and they are "surplus to the requirements of the site." Needless to say, this should come as no surprise to many of us, but I for one will be devastated to see the towers go. As ugly as they might seem, they are without a doubt an East Kent landmark and they've had a big and important role to play in my life.

I originally grew up in Deal and it only took a stroll from across where I lived to see the Richborough cooling towers on the horizon. Those towers are something I remember being part of my growing up experience and I fondly remember staring at them on many walks along the coast adjacent to the Goodwin Sands near the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club. Not only that, but my connection to them is familial. My grandfather Bernard Edwards worked at Richborough Power Station for nearly thirty years – from 1962 onwards – and had worked his way up to becoming a Unit Operator in the control room.

Eventually, my grandfather was moved onto Sellindge when I was just a child and the rest, as they say, is history. Richborough Power Station was eventually closed in 1996 and left a large cooling tower-shaped hole in my grandfather's life from then onwards. The fact that I was raised by my grandparents only added to the sense of importance those cooling towers had to our family. Subsequently, hearing that plans have been submitted to Thanet Council to have the towers demolished has had a disheartening effect on me.

Obviously, it's nothing I didn't see coming, and it may seem ridiculous to some people, but in my opinion Richborough Power Station's stature as a landmark – both physically and psychologically – was overwhelmingly profound. Not only did it have a vital role to play in my Grandad's working life, but it also loomed large on the horizon for most of my childhood years and well into my adolescence. It was always there. The thought of it not being there is saddening, even though I've since moved away from where I grew up.

I am, however, for the most part, unsure of what could be done to stop this from happening. The towers have been in a state of disuse for so long now that getting nostalgic about them forgets the fact that the amount of maintenance required could spell the end of them anyway. It looks as though we'll be getting a Green Energy Park on the site once the towers are demolished and apparently it'll become a "recycling plant for household, commercial and industrial waste, biomass and gasification plants – where waste is converted through heat rather than incineration into electricity."

I can see some saying that it's foolish to cling onto big lumps of concrete and calling them a 'landmark' when it serves no real purpose. But what's to say the site owners couldn't make use of them somehow, perhaps as a testament to Britian's industrious past in electricity generation? I imagine that'd go down rather nicely alongside a 21st century 'green energy' recycling plant.

In short, I don't mind admitting I'll be sad to see the cooling towers go. Had my Grandad been alive today, he probably would've been just as upset as I am at the news. Sure, I will miss driving past the cooling towers on my way to work. My grandmother will also be sad not to see them in the distance when she takes her dog for a walk. But what do you think? Should we resist the change, or should we say 'RIP Richborough Power Station. Step up, Richborough 2.0'?

1 comment:

  1. I'm afraid that I don't agree at all.

    This stretch of coastline is one of the most historic in Britain: here the Romans landed and established their first settlement in Britain; here came the Saxons, the Vikings, the Jutes and others who helped to form our nation; here arrived Augustine to re-establish Christianity in England, whose influence still affects our national life, culture and even our landscape. There is much more too, but this, one of the most important places in our national heritage is forgotten, ignored, and ruined by eyesores such as the old power station and its towers, scruffy industrial sites, the sprawling Pfizer site, and incredible insensitivity. In Thanet we have a site that ought to have World Heritage status if it had been properly recognised, cared for, preserved and enhanced, yet virtually nobody realises its importance or even seems to care.

    The towers are ugly, and have always been a blot on what could be a lovely stretch of landscape. You are never free of them, wherever you are in Thanet. They always spoil the view. Our heritage is much older, much deeper than what these towers represent - and that is ignored, when in fact this is one of the most important pieces of coastline in Britain, and has played a crucial part in our history for more than 2,000 years - compared with which, the towers are nothing, yet they dominate everything and obscure what is more important. As soon as they are removed we might see the possibilities for recovering this terribly abused place.

    This is surely one of the most spoilt stretches of coastline in the United Kingdom, yet one of the most deserving of improvement. The removal of all traces of the power station and its towers would be an important step in the right direction.