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page-page-001Charlie Laing wrote an article about the future of the Didcot Towers recently which was published in the Business section of the Oxford Times.

For those of you who missed it, here’s the article.

In 2014 the 6 cooling towers at Didcot power station will be knocked down.

Each of these towers is 200m tall and has dominated the landscape for the last  40+ years.  The site occupies 300 acres.

Just over the road at Great Western Park approx. 446 acres of farmland is being turned into 3,300 homes.

Whatever we local residents think about tall structures the fact is that we have been living with them for the past 40 years.  Having something dominate our skyline is a given and however regrettable is a fact that we have all learnt to live with.  What would happen if we replaced the cooling towers with high density housing – which do we value more our view or our land?

The question is possibly even more relevant to the villages of Long Wittenham and Clifton Hampden where a scheme for 2030 homes is being pushed through at a density of 33 houses per hectare.  That’s 64 hectares for the 2030 houses.

To put some context to this:  Hong Kong builds at110,000 people/km2 (1km2=247 acres) so the cooling tower site at Hong Kong standards would fit over 110,000 people  – about 13 times as efficient as Great Western Park.

The normal objection that tall buildings are out of place in the countryside does not stand here as the precedent is already set.  Moreover here is a perfect opportunity for the local councils to be a pioneer in a new type of project – attractive rural high density projects.  Imagine the number of architects that would be salivating at designing a structure like that

Another objection is “who wants to live in a tower block?”  Well, judging by prices in the Shard or the Burj Khalifa, quite a few people and if you argue that Didcot is not quite central London then please think of the view over the Thames Valley that the towers would command and remember that the Shard’s location was also not considered to be the most desirable.

And the knock on for employment for the nearby science parks – fantastic work force on the doorstep.  And the space left for parks, school playgrounds, wildlife – fantastic; and the extra spend that would go into Didcot or Abingdon – fantastic.

The principal of targeted high density housing zones inserted into high value countryside in order to protect the surrounding countryside is well established in other countries.  Why not try it here in the UK in a location where a precedent has already been set?  It would be a sacrilege to replace the towers with a low rise solution.


We’d love to hear your thoughts and receive your comments about the Didcot Towers and which solution you think would be best.



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Our Construction Project Management and Quantity Surveying Services cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. We provide Energy Efficiency and Heating System Advice across the UK.
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