Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Sunday, 24 August 2008 13:19 UK

Blast demolishes landmark towers

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The landmark cooling towers are demolished

Two iconic concrete cooling towers in South Yorkshire have been demolished in a controlled explosion.

Millions of drivers passed the 250ft (76m) towers by the Tinsley viaduct on the M1 at Sheffield over the decades.

At 0300 BST the blast to reduce the "salt and pepper pots" to rubble left part of the north tower still standing but it has since collapsed.

The M1 reopened to traffic shortly before 1800 BST after safety tests were completed on the motorway supports.

The blast was watched by several thousand people and the M1 motorway had to be closed from midnight on Saturday, between junctions 32 and 35.

The towers stood only feet away from the twin-deck Tinsley viaduct, which carries the motorway on the top deck and the A631 on its lower deck.

A joint statement from tower owner E.ON and the Highways Agency said: "The demolition has now been successfully completed.

"The viaduct remains closed and the exclusion zone remains in place as planned to allow safety checks to continue."

Tinsley towers
Only part of the north tower fell initially

After the dust settled, about a third of the north tower was still standing but a BBC reporter at the scene said the pile of rubble left after the explosion gradually fell in on itself and reduced significantly in height.

Workmen with gigantic mechanical diggers then removed the rest of the tower.

By Sunday lunchtime, Highways Agency officials said safety checks on the Tinsley viaduct were still ongoing and the M1 remained closed until the evening.

Local roads had been re-opened, but the agency said commuting motorists and goods drivers on longer routes should follow diversions set up both north and south of the viaduct.

A spokeswoman said: "The upper and lower decks of the viaduct will remain closed as checks are currently taking place as planned.

"Only when we are certain it is safe to do so will we re-open the viaduct."

Earlier on Sunday Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council, said the focus was to get traffic moving.

"We need to get the M1 opened as soon as possible," he said. "We have a Bank Holiday where people will be moving around the country, coming back home, going to see relatives or going to see places."

Despite campaigns to save the towers, which were the only remnants of the Blackburn Meadows power station, E.ON said it was destroying them as the 70-year-old structures had deteriorated.

Emily Highmore, from E.ON, said preserving the towers would have been very expensive.

"They would require a very, very significant investment and fundamentally speaking we are an energy company and our job is to keep people's lights on."

Nowhere else in the world has anyone sought to bring down similar structures that sit so close to a major highway viaduct
Arthur Ashburner, Highways Agency
The firm has been given permission to build a 60m biomass power station at the site.

Before the towers were brought down Arthur Ashburner, from the Highways Agency, said: "This demolition is a unique situation and, as far as we are aware, nowhere else in the world has anyone sought to bring down similar structures that sit so close to a major highway viaduct."

Some locals had tried to save the cooling towers and have them turned into an art installation.

Campaigner Tom Keeley said: "You see very few cooling towers that are in quite such a visible position, they're 12 metres from the M1, and they kind of symbolise not only a gateway to Sheffield and Yorkshire but they also symbolise a gateway to the North."

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