Airline pilots warned as four more Ferrybridge cooling towers in Yorkshire to be demolished

IT will be an awesome spectacle for thousands – but so distracting that airline pilots are being warned and rolling road blocks will be set up to halt motorists in their tracks some 10 miles away.

In a month’s time four more cooling towers at the redundant Ferrybridge power station, which have dominated the landscape for more than 50 years, will be reduced to a pile of rubble in a series of explosions taking just 12 seconds.

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Large crowds are expected to witness the towers falling on October 13 while more than 140 people will be evacuated from their homes, and traffic temporarily bought to a halt on the M62, A1 and A162.

Ferrybridge C Power Station, Knottingley, West Yorkshire. Picture James Hardisty.

Even commercial airliners flying into Leeds Bradford Airport will be warned.

“Imagine if you use this as a place marker and suddenly you see it collapsing in front of you,” said Paul Hook, demolition project manager for SSE.

“The last time we saw a demolition of this scale was Ferrybridge B in the 1990s.”

The exact time that veteran explosives engineer Dick Green will press the trigger – it is a handheld device these days – will not be disclosed, with residents in the 328 yard (300 metre) exclusion zone asked to leave their homes from around 9am.

The power station was fully decommissioned and is now undergoing demolition by SSE and Keltbray.

There has already been four months of preparatory work, drilling around 3,000 holes into the case and spindly-looking legs of each of the vast towers.

These will be packed with nitroglycerine, which apparently look like old-fashioned sticks of dynamite – but coloured pink.

The charges will be set so that Towers Four, Five, Seven and Eight will all fall in slightly different directions – to avoid power cables and the three which will remain standing – before collapsing to the earth.

“Although it is referred to as an explosion, it is actually an implosion,” pointed out one of the site workers.

Another of Ferrybridge’s eight cooling towers, the 374-foot high Tower Six, was brought down successfully in July.

Standing in the drained bed of what was once a 6ft-deep lake of cooling water inside a tower, Mr Hook, 45, said the demolition would personally be a sad moment.

He has worked at the site since leaving school, his mother worked there as a guide and his great grandfather was the first turbine driver – clock number 001 – in the early 1900s.

He said: “There’s multiple families that had fathers, sons, mothers and daughters here.

“It has been a key employer in this region. It’s a massive landmark and people associate themselves with the site even if they haven’t worked here.

“It’s a beacon of home when you are travelling home – as soon as you see the chimneys you know you are here.”

The huge coal yard, which once held 4m tonnes of coal, latterly from Indonesia, South Africa, Columbia and America, is eerily empty.

Mr Hook recalled the days when it was full of noise and bustle from trucks and trains and the nearby barge unloader would pick up a vessel and turn it upside down, dumping its entire load.

Now half of the site is up for redevelopment, while SSE reviews its options for the remainder.

“We are potentially looking at a CCGT plant (combined cycle gas turbine) site at Ferrybridge, but there are multiple sites under consideration within SSE,” said Mr Hook.

Low carbon generation is the new kid on the block, and Ferrybridge shut in 2016 due to rising costs and being unable to meet new emissions legislation.

Last year Eggborough, in North Yorkshire, which produced enough electricity to power 2m homes, equivalent to the area of Leeds and Sheffield, closed.

And Drax is replacing its remaining two coal units with gas-fired power generating units.