A power station chimney which was more than twice the height of Big Ben’s tower has been demolished in a controlled explosion.
The 656ft chimney at Uniper’s decommissioned Kingsnorth Power Station in Hoo, Kent, came down at 10am on Thursday after the demolition was delayed from earlier in the month due to snow.
Construction of the oil-fired power station begin in 1963. The site was commissioned in the early 1970s and was the only dual-fired power station in the country able to burn oil and coal.
It was capable of producing 2000MW of electricity – enough to power more than 1.5 million homes.
The chimney removed steam and other gases from the plant’s boilers and became a familiar landmark on the Kent landscape.
When the site closed in December 2012, it had operated for 42 years and generated 310TWh of power.
A crowd of former staff gathered for the occasion. There was silence as the chimney toppled and applause afterwards.
Manager Bill Cliff, 56, of Sittingbourne, joined as an apprentice in 1979 and worked at the power station for 25 years after being inspired by his father, who was a consultant engineer involved in building the plant.
Mr Cliff, who still works for Uniper, said: “The power station was a family business – fathers, sons and daughters all worked in the same place.
“I have an overwhelming sense of pride being here but it is tinged with sadness and there are mixed feelings about seeing the chimney disappear.
“Ideally we would like to keep the chimney, it’s become part of the Medway landscape, but it really is about the amount of money it costs to maintain it and keep it safe.
“So it is time for the great old lady to go.”
He pressed the demolition button alongside the MP for Rochester and Strood, Kelly Tolhurst, and one of the company’s latest apprentices, Ryan Leith, to bring 24,000 tons of concrete and steel and 1.5 million bricks to the ground.
Neil Riley, head of development and demolition for Uniper, said: “This is a milestone for the demolition project, it is our last big explosive demolition.
“It’s been part of the community and serving the national interest for 42 years. Personally I will be sad to see it go as well. But structures of this nature are built with a purpose and that purpose is no longer.
“It’s not cost effective to keep it standing.”
In 2007, six Greenpeace activists spent nine hours climbing to the top of the smokestack to paint the name of then prime minister Gordon Brown on the side. The so-called Kingsnorth Six were later cleared of causing criminal damage at trial.
Ben Stewart, one of the activists who scaled the power station, said: “Today will be a sad day for many people for whom this giant plant was a familiar feature of the landscape. But while the plant is gone, the legacy of the campaign it came to symbolise lives on.
“Kingsnorth was a watershed moment – it marked the beginning of the end for coal in Britain. People from all walks of life got together to stop plans to build new coal plants in the UK and clear space for cleaner energy sources – and they won.”
The site has been demolished piece by piece since 2014 and the remaining work is due to be completed by the end of the year.
So far no decision has been made on what will happen to the site afterwards, a Uniper spokeswoman said.