Monday, 23 January 2012

STRIKE IT RICHBOROUGH

The towers and chimney at Richborough Power Station are going to be demolished, according to BBC News, Kent Online and This Is Kent. In last week's planning committee, as covered by 'Ville Views blogger James Maskell, councillors voted unanimously in favour of demolishing the iconic East Kent landmark, and though I'm saddened by the news, I'm not in the least bit surprised. It was an inevitable consequence and I think people should resign themselves to accepting this new reality. It was inescapable.

At first, I had ambiguous feelings about the idea of demolishing Richborough Towers. On the one hand, I felt that the case could be made that they're a great example of Brutalist architecture from a bygone historical era, and I previously wrote about how I had a sentimental attachment to them due to the fact that my grandfather worked at the power station for most of his adult life.

On the other hand, I saw no entirely legitimate reason to keep the towers because: a) They've been in a state of disuse for so long now that maintenance costs would outweigh any nostalgic value b) It's not like they could be brought back into operation now, is it? and c) It's been 16 years since they closed, so it seems rather futile to hang onto two big lumps of concrete when they serve no practical purpose whatsoever.

I ended up joining a Facebook campaign to save the Richborough towers and chimney, largely out of a sympathetic loyalty to the significant role they played in my grandfather's career. Some environmental activists spoke out in support of saving the towers, but considering the role Richborough Power Station played in polluting the very environment those activists claimed to be defending, it seemed like a massive contradiction in terms to me.

However, I did end up writing an e-mail to Planning Services in which I outlined how important I felt the towers were to my family and I concluded with the following statement:

"If indeed the site is to be used as a 'green energy' recycling plant to generate electricity, why not keep the towers as a reminder of how things used to be done? Why not set up a museum and try and educate school students across Kent about the importance of energy resources and sustainability, teaching them about the important historical role Richborough Power Station once held?"

Fanciful as it might have been, that opinion still stands. However, let's be honest, keeping the towers was never a likely outcome. But if anything deserves to replace Richborough Power Station, this new Green Energy recycling plant is a rightful successor. As someone who strongly believes that action needs to be taken on reducing CO2 emissions and building a low carbon economy, why would I poo-poo the notion of setting up a green energy facility such as this? It's the perfect way to modernise the site of the former power station and drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Sure, Richborough Energy Park might not look as iconic as the towers and chimney, but it will ultimately share the same goal of generating electricity, only this time without having to burn fossil fuels and melt our planet's beloved ice caps. And what's so bad about that, eh?! The only disadvantage as far as I can see is that Richborough Energy Park will only be generating electricity for Belgium via undersea cabling and not for the UK, but hey, if it generates enough jobs, it will achieve far more than the power station will do if we continue to allow it to sit on a derelict brownfield site. 

So, despite my initial objections, my discomfort, and my sadness at the thought of an East Kent landmark being blown up, I've slowly come round to the idea of demolishing the old to make way for the new. How do you feel about it?

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