Page last updated at 02:47 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 03:47 UK

End in sight for 'unique' towers

Samantha Haines
BBC News, Sheffield

Tinsley Towers
The towers were built 70 years ago

For many visitors to Sheffield, their first glimpse of the city involves two disused cooling towers that overshadow the M1 motorway.

Known locally as "the salt and pepper pots", the famous Tinsley towers were originally part of a power station that closed down in the 1970s.

They have been described as "intrinsically beautiful" and a "massive icon" for the city.

But despite campaigns to save them, the towers will be demolished on Sunday.

Energy giant E.ON, which owns the towers, says they need to be knocked down as they are unsafe.

The company has been granted permission for a 60m biomass power station on the site.

'Cultural vandalism'

But for many, Sunday's 0300 BST demolition will be a sad event.

In 2006 the site was one of six in the UK selected to be part of a 2m national art programme for Channel 4.

The idea had been around in Sheffield for several years and had received much public support.

Suggestions included turning the site into gigantic tankards, a skate park and a theme park with rooms inside based upon local celebrities.

Antony Gormley
I could see a choir singing specially-composed music in the centre, with the audience sitting in a circle round them
Angel of the North creator Antony Gormley

But E.ON ruled out the idea, saying the 250ft (76m) towers needed to be knocked down.

Thousands of people signed petitions as part of a campaign to save the towers, and world-famous sculptor Antony Gormley stepped into the controversy.

Mr Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North, said it would be an "act of cultural vandalism" to knock them down.

He said: "They are to the industrial revolution what cathedrals were to the medieval world."

He said the towers were "absolutely unique" in their shape and acoustic capabilities and could be used as a concert hall or recording studio.

"I could see a choir singing specially-composed music in the centre, with the audience sitting in a circle round them."

Sheffield Attercliffe MP Clive Betts agreed that the move was "an act of historical vandalism".

'Massive symbolism'

He said the towers were the oldest surviving parabolic cooling towers in the UK and had huge historic industrial value.

"In fact, for millions of people, arriving at the Tinsley cooling towers has meant 'thank goodness, we're back in the north'," he said.

"Southerners have always had ridiculous arguments about whether the north began at Watford or Watford Gap.

"To those in the know, the north has always started at Tinsley. With the towers gone, these will be an urgent need to find a replacement for their massive symbolism".

• E.ON has set up a viewing platform at the adjacent Meadowhall shopping centre so people can watch the demolition.

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