Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Lost City

Two Notts Creatives Discuss the Future of Ratcliffe-On-Soar Power Station

18 January 22 words: William Harvey and Ryan Boultbee
photos: William Harvey and Ryan Boultbee

Architectural Designer William Harvey and artist Ryan Boultbee, two creatives obsessed with the built environment, discuss the uncertain future of Ratcliffe-on-Soar (R-o-S) power station - that’s the big’un, with the giant cooling towers, that you can see dominating the landscape on the approach to Notts…

Ryan: So, they must have burnt that big pile of coal at R-o-S Power Station by now?
Will: Yeah, you’d think so! It's about 52 years old now, and the power station is still going strong. The site has become a symbolic and conflicted landmark - a place of protest; it's both a constructive provider in many local people's lives, for work, energy and training, but also a destructive force in the wider environment, causing acid rain, high CO2 emissions, and other nasty stuff.

R: Hundreds of thousands of people must see it everyday; it's been reminding people that you’re in Notts for almost half a century.
W: You can get check-to-cheek with it on the M1, and, on the train, you get a closer encounter with those titanic cooling towers - you can even see the internal rain dripping through into the pools at the bottom of those stacks. The eight cooling towers are each roughly equal to a 28-story building (118m), it’s an industrial dinosaur.

R: The government bods are having lots of talks at the minute about the future of the site - they will stop feeding the boilers in 2025. In the end, R-o-S may be the last coal powered station in the country. They plan to knock it down, and build an incinerator in its stead; after all this COP26 talk, that's not a particularly environmentally friendly solution.
W: Well, no, not really. In an incinerator you're burning household waste. Lots of household waste is essentially plastic. Plastic is basically oil from the ground, so it’s not much different from burning coal to generate energy - it also releases harmful gases into the atmosphere.

R: Hmm. So these monumental cathedrals of power - like R-o-S - that have fueled the environmental crisis, could be given the chance of a re-imagined future? We could think about generating energy a little differently. To avoid throwing even more toxic stuff into the atmosphere. Sod knocking them down. I say let’s keep the towers - they’re historical artefacts, evidence of the invisible pollution generated by the most destructive generation on planet earth.
W: This is an interesting idea, I wonder how future generations would feel standing next to these titanic structures if we just left them there? When our generation is gone, what will be thought of the leftovers from the cult of coal?

Sod knocking them down. I say let’s keep the towers - they’re historical artefacts, evidence of the invisible pollution generated by the most destructive generation on planet earth

R: There are so many resources on the R-o-S site. We can re-use the buildings or materials, the hundreds and thousands of tonnes of concrete and steel. Surely we can preserve it through imaginative reuse? Someone, somewhere, imagined sticking the Tate Modern gallery in Bankside Power Station.
W: Indeed! Ratcliffe power station is like an urban mine for materials and spaces. It could be turned into a new civic place - it even has its own train station (East Midlands Parkway). It’d be even better if it had a positive and regenerative impact on the local environment; reparation for the damage we’ve done. How about a public lido, skatepark, art gallery, events space, local wildlife corridor, nature reserve, a materials recycling and testing centre, or all of these ideas wrapped up into one? The site is big enough.
R: We can do but dream… I wonder how other folk in and around Notts imagine the future of R-o-S Power Station?

Will and Ryan will be running a series of creative projects asking local communities about their thoughts and feelings on the future of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station. They're always on the look out for collaborators and support for the project. Got an idea? You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now

You might like this too...

Metronome - Suntou Susso

You might like this too...