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Kingsnorth Power Station chimney demolition

The Medway skyline has changed forever today, after the chimney at Kingsnorth Power Station was demolished.

Workers past and present grouped in Hoo to see the 650ft chimney destroyed.

The demolition was set for March 8, but didn't take place due to the weather conditions.

Locals gathered at hotspots to witness the demolition at Riverside Country Park in Rainham and The Strand in Gillingham.

In addition to over 100 guests at the site, an estimated 200+ spectators grouped at each of the two to witness the destruction.

Medway's Jet Stream Tours also offered a prime spot to witness the spectacle, transporting passengers from Rochester pier to see the chimney drop.

Kingsnorth - people at the scene (1260861)
Kingsnorth - people at the scene (1260861)

Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst pressed the button and triggered the demolition alongside Plant Manager Bill Cliff and and Uniper apprentice Ryan Leith.

The trio triggered the blast at 10am - a deafening boom that brought 32,000 tonnes of concrete and steel crumbling down.

In just seconds, the Kent skyline was changed forever.

The demolition is nearly over. Pictures: Glen Boggis (1261423)
The demolition is nearly over. Pictures: Glen Boggis (1261423)

A health and safety talk took place for the event, including the mechanical aspects of the demolition with some history of the power station.

The station was commissioned in the early 1970s and was capable of producing up to 1320MW of power - enough electricity to power over a million homes and businesses.

Kingsnorth's chimney, which was over twice the height of Big Ben, removed steam and other gases from the plant's five boilers.

The plant closed in December 2012 after they opted out of the government's Large Combustion Plant Directive, which required power stations to close after generating for 20,000 hours after January 2008 or by the end of 2015, whichever came first.

The demolition programme began, of which today was a part of, started in 2014 and is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Chris Pickett took this photo of the Kingsnorth Chimney from Main Road, Hoo.(1259907)
Chris Pickett took this photo of the Kingsnorth Chimney from Main Road, Hoo.(1259907)

Plant Manager Bill Cliff, who has worked for Uniper, who own the site, for 39 years, said: "The Chimney has been a prominent local feature for many years, so we are sure there will be mixed feelings now that it has gone.

"However, we know that people also understand the rationale demolishing the chimney and accept that it's time for it to go.

"We're proud of the contribution the power station has made in the past, helping to supply power to millions of homes and businesses over more than 30 years and playing an important part in meeting the country's energy needs."

The moment of demolition. Picture: David Allsop (1261159)
The moment of demolition. Picture: David Allsop (1261159)

One ex-worker in attendance today was 61-year-old Dave Savage, who worked at the power station for 37 years.

Dave, whose wife Ann is a parish councillor for Hoo, said today would be a sad day.

He said before the event: "There will be some sad people - there were 1100 working there when I started.

"It was a fantastic place; the best working environment I have ever been a part of, and will be such a big loss."

The retiree, who was born and bred in in Medway, began working at Kingsnorth in 1978 and worked as an oil and greaser, plant attendant, operator and team leader during his time there.

He continued: "People forget it, but Kingsnorth kept the Towns alight - during The Great Storm, we supplied local areas through the national grid.

"We kept generating - there was a time that we had to stay there for 7 days; we were living there, but we kept generating electricity.

"It will be a sad day."

"It was a fantastic place; the best working environment I have ever been a part of, and will be such a big loss." - Ex-station worker Dave Savage

Kingsnorth was commissioned in 1973 but shut in December 2012, after it reached a 20,000-hour operations threshold set out by an EU directive.

A family business is behind the demolitions at Kingsnorth – Brown and Mason, a family-based in Dartford, is behind the demolitions at Kingsnorth - they were also responsible for the de-construction of Grain Power Station.

The last demolition took place in July of last year, when two boiler buildings were demolished, attracting crowds of spectators.

Kingsnorth - people at the scene (1260861)
Kingsnorth - people at the scene (1260861)

Gill Dickinson, a senior press officer for Uniper, said before the explosion: “It will be similar to other demolitions at the power stations. It will be extremely quick.”

Grain tower was blown up in 2016; the 801ft structure, which took 10 years to build, was gone in less than 10 seconds.

Many missed the big moment however, as they were watching from the other side of the river and had their eyes trained on the Kingsnorth tower rather than Grain.

The 200-metre tall chimney was all that remains of the power station which, a decade ago, became the focal point of a huge public campaign to stop new coal plants being built in Britain.

In 2007, six Greenpeace activist managed to climb to the top of the smokestack and paint the name of the then prime minister Gordon Brown down the side.

They were later cleared of causing criminal damage in a groundbreaking trial.

The jury recognised the potential damage to property from climate change as a reasonable ground for direct action for the first time.

Greenpeace activists snuck into the Kingsnorth coal plant (1258242)
Greenpeace activists snuck into the Kingsnorth coal plant (1258242)

In 2010, energy firm E.ON shelved plans to build a new coal plant at Kingsnorth, forcing the government to abandon its proposals for a new fleet of coal plants.

More than a third of the UK's electricity was generated by coal in 2007 but in 2017 that had dropped to just 7%.

The government this year published proposals to phase out coal burning by 2025 and is leading a global initiative to get more countries to do the same.


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