The ‘Tinsley Towers’ Trashed

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A still from Smoothe’s film about the ‘Tinsley Towers’

(Click on the picture to see the film)

It’s not ever day that a British industrial heritage icon is dynamited into dust. Yet that’s exactly what took place at 03:00 BST this morning. The demolition of the ‘Tinsley Towers’ by E.ON was the final death blow by the 68€ billion international energy corporation against the plans of local campaigners to retain the cooling towers as a local landmark.

The ‘Tinsley Towers’ were the last two remaining cooling towers from a set of 7 that were once part of Sheffield’s Blackburn Meadows Power Station. Sheffield Corporation’s Electricity Department started building the power station in 1921. The Power Station was developed in stages adding more turbines and increasing boiler capacity. Cooling towers 6 and 7 were constructed in 1937-8 to cope with the additional waste heat output. Britain’s first motorway, the M1, was extended in the late 60s through the outskirts of Sheffield on a 1 km long double deck steel viaduct. It which passed less than 19 yards from the nearest tower which was still in use. The power station was decommissioned in the 70s, and demolished with 5 of the 7 cooling towers in the 80s. The two cooling towers nearest the motorway were left standing for fear that their demolition by explosive charges would set up vibrations in the ground and viaduct which would weaken the structure. The ‘Tinsley Towers’ became a welcome landmark which greeted weary drivers returning home to the Midlands.

In 2005 two local campaigners, Tom James and Tom Keely, came up with the idea of reusing the Towers as an exhibition space and arts centre. The idea quickly caught on and their project was the most popular proposal in Channel 4’s Big Art Project. In 2006 a competition organised by Groundwork Sheffield and the Royal Institute of British Architects looked for imaginative designs for the future of the towers and the former power station site. E.ON countered by announcing that they would demolish the towers and build a ‘carbon neutral power station’ on the site. They also announced a £500,000 donation to help fund a suitable work of art for Sheffield.

The two Toms countered by maintaining their campaign against the demolition of the Towers. In many ways their campaign was a classic example as to how to run a campaign of this sort. They engaged the local community. They manned an information stall cum shop. They organised a petition, and held a demonstration. They worked with the media and obtained good coverage in the press and on TV. They obtained the support of their local MP. They produced an excellent visualisation (click the picture and follow the links) of what their idea might look like in practice.

So what went wrong? The two Tom’s were clearly outgunned by E.ON, but why should the power company have cared so much about demolishing the towers. We’ll be offering some analysis in tomorrow’s post.

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One Response to “The ‘Tinsley Towers’ Trashed”

  1. gary stevens Says:

    the sittingboune viaduct is in danger of demolition it carries the preserved sittingboune andKemsley Steam railway it seved the Paper mill a sittingboune and ran via Kemsley to Ridham docks,the line was prented to a railway club 40 years ago and now the council want to demolish the viaduct which carries the most unquie industrial preseved steam railway in the u.k.,also the best tourist attraction for miles.the steam worked 2ft 6in line is in DANGER OF CLOUSURE email your thoghts,i was e-mailed yesterday a bid to buy their land ha been rejected and they only have till jan 2009 to sort this mess out

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