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Tower Demolition

Tower demolition

The demolition of a Grade II listed tower in Teesside has caused condemnation from local and national leaders. Constructed in the 1950s as a coal storage facility, the Dorman Long structure was the focal point of a former steelworks in Redcar and was granted listed status only weeks earlier to prevent its destruction.

Historic England, the heritage body which granted listed status, expressed dismay at the decision by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries to remove the protected status and allow the 183 foot high building to be demolished.

Demolition contractor Atkins, has subsequently released a report in the public domain which indicated that the cost of maintaining the building would have run to around 2 million pounds per year in addition to an outlay of over 9 million pounds to perform initial repairs and make the tower safe.

In an accompanying release, Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, suggested that the initial decision to grant Dorman Long Grade II listed status was made in error, but Historic England refuted this claim, indicating that subsequent site visits had affirmed their decision to grant protected status to the sixty year old tower, and that campaigners were furious at the lack of effort made to save the structure.

The demolition quote of approximately 1 million pounds was deemed good value for a structure “significantly past its design life”, according to the Atkins report, which also concluded that even if the brutalist-style tower was preserved, it had a limited future life and would also be very expensive to maintain at a safe level.

Tower Demolition

Old building demolition can often be a cost-effective way to clear sites for renovation or repurposing, and while a million pounds may seem expensive on the face of it, the ongoing costs of preserving a building or structure such as Dorman Long could have become prohibitively expensive over the next decade.

Among locals who campaigned for its preservation was Anna Turley, a former MP for Redcar, who described the lack of national effort to save the structure as “shameful”, and that another symbol of the region’s proud industrial heritage had been lost. By contrast, Mayor Houchen suggested that Teesside’s strength lay in its people and that the area’s strong industrial links would live on through innovation and progress. Furthermore, the flattening of the tower would make way for the further investment in the former steelworks site, with hundreds of millions of pounds of capital expected to be poured into the area’s regeneration; the prospect of hundreds of new jobs, 21st century industry and the revitalisation of the area’s economy thus took precedence over the ongoing costs of preserving Dorman Long.

Chimney Demo
Chimney Demolition

Initial plans for the site’s renovation had included the tower as a symbol of its historic past, but once the true costs of maintaining the structure were revealed, some local leaders viewed this as a waste of money when compared with the site’s potential overhaul and redevelopment.

Professional demolition work of such disused towers is always controversial, with strong and passionate arguments coming on both sides – while some residents may regard these symbols of Britain’s industrial heritage as eyesores or in need of removal, others point to their iconic designs and that they should be preserved as a reminder and tribute to those men and women who strived hard throughout their lives to generate jobs and wealth for the region.

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