THEY have been living on borrowed time for years but now demolition day has finally been set for the Tinsley cooling towers.
Owners E.ON announced this week that the landmark will be blown up in the early hours of Sunday, August 24, over the Bank Holiday weekend.
The date and time have been chosen because the motorway will be relatively quiet but traffic will still be severely disrupted as the 250ft towers bite the dust.
The M1 will be closed between junctions 32 and 35 from midnight on the Saturday and for most of Sunday. The A631 Tinsley viaduct lower deck between the Tinsley and Meadowhall roundabouts will also close.
The question what to do with the redundant cooling towers, once part of seven connected to the old Blackburn Meadows power station, has been a hot topic for years.
Some people see them as symbolic of the gateway to Sheffield and have pressed for them to be retained so they can be turned into public works of art. Others have wondered what all the fuss is about.
E.ON has always said that the towers had to come down because of mounting fears for their safety but has been held up because of the delicacy of the demolition operation.
The explosion and collapse has to be carried out without damaging the foundations or structure of the neighbouring Tinsley viaduct, avoiding potentially expensive consequences.
A number of possible demolition dates have passed by but now everything is set for August 24 after "extensive consultation" with the the Government's Highways Agency, police and other local agencies.
Derek Parkin, managing director of business services at E.ON, said: "Our priority has always been to make sure this demolition is carried out safely and with as little disruption as possible, which is why we've opted for the early hours of the morning."
For those wanting to see a piece of Sheffield history disappear in a cloud of dust, it is intended to organise a viewing platform at Meadowhall. A time of around 3am is being mooted but not confirmed.
A text raffle is planned to win the chance to start the demolition countdown, while E.ON is financing a souvenir book and postcard set charting the history of the towers.
Produced by the University of Sheffield's Archaeology consultancy, Arcus, the proceeds will go to Rotherham Hospice and neurocare unit at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.
Lesley Eland, Neurocare's fundraising director, said: "The Tinsley Towers have been a longstanding landmark for the city and, while many people will be sad to see them go, the money raised will hopefully leave a long lasting impression on the people of Sheffield, helping to improve the lives of patients with a range of debilitating illnesses for many years to come."
Meanwhile, the Highways Agency is working on the traffic implications.
Divisional director Arthur Ashburner said:
"We have agreed that the best time to close the motorway to allow the demolition to take place will be in the early hours of Bank Holiday Sunday when traffic levels are at their lowest.
"Clearly-signed diversions will be in place along the M18 and M62 together with local diversion routes, in order to limit any delays to road-users, but we advise drivers to allow extra time for their journeys."
Mr Ashburner added: "Our primary concern is for the safety of road-users. Over the past 30 years, since the main Blackburn Meadows power station was demolished, the Agency has carried out extensive strengthening works on the adjacent M1 Tinsley Viaduct.
"We are now content that the demolition of the remaining towers, as planned, poses a very low risk of damage to this important structure.
"Nevertheless, a rigorous programme of inspection and testing will ensure that reopening of the motorway will only take place when we are entirely satisfied that is it safe to do so."
Earlier this year, E.ON was granted planning permission for a biomass power station at Blackburn Meadows, capable of producing enough renewable energy for around 40,000 homes.
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