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Call to keep power station towers as piece of industrial history

The cooling towers of West Burton power station could be kept to form an ‘impressive gateway’ for the fusion plant that will take its place, a council leader has suggested.

The coal-fired power station, which closed last year, is due to be cleared by 2028 to make room for the next generation of energy projects.

Its iconic 106m-tall cooling towers have loomed over the landscape near Retford since the 1960s.

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An architecture heritage group is calling for them to be maintained as a piece of industrial history.

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The West Burton A site was chosen as the home of the ground-breaking Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion energy prototype, which could provide sustainable, low-carbon energy by 2040.

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Councillor James Naish (Lab), leader of Bassetlaw District Council and ward member for the West Burton area, said the towers could be incorporated into future developments.

“Some local residents have previously raised the idea of saving a couple of cooling towers, and this was reflected in one of the three resident-produced masterplans for West Burton created in 2022 that put the remaining cooling towers at the heart of a regeneration scheme,” he said.

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West Burton A power station

“The existing cooling towers at West Burton could make an impressive gateway to the new prototype fusion energy plant, but the ongoing cost of maintaining these would need to be understood and factored into evolving project plans.

“This is not something that we as a district council control, but we will continue to engage on residents’ behalf to secure the best socio-economic outcome on our important, historic power station sites.”

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is behind the fusion project. EDF owns the site, and local councils are part of a Strategic Collaboration Group.

The West Burton towers gave been given a Certificate of Immunity, which prevents them from being listed, and therefore protected from demolition.

But campaigners the Twentieth Century Society are fighting to stop the towers and other industrial landmarks from being lost.

Campaigns Director Oli Marshall said it was possible to invest in the future while preserving the past.

“The preservation of our industrial heritage and the arrival of new energy technology should not be not be an either / or situation –  there’s room for both to coexist,” he said.

He added that the cooling towers take up less than three per cent of the 410-acre site, which is around the size of 205 football pitches.

“Surely it could be possible to retain some of the towers and integrate them into the new plans for the site? Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good,” he said.

“Just like mill chimneys, smock windmills and gasholders before them, cooling towers are now passing into history. Redundant relics of our industrial heritage, that have gradually become part of the Nottinghamshire landscape.

“As the carbon age is ending and the sustainable age begins, it’s important we retain some of our past, to remember where we’ve come from and point the way to our future.”

The STEP project would be the world’s first fusion prototype, recreating and harnessing the energy process which powers the sun.

 • Read more: West Burton Fusion Plant: Government commits to ‘immediately’ develop training centres in Nottinghamshire

 • Read more: West Burton named as site for UK’s first fusion energy power plant

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