The iconic 500ft high chimneys at Cockenzie Power Station are finally set to be demolished next year.
Community leaders are split over Scottish Power’s plans to demolish the 47-year-old smokestacks – which have been organised as part of Cockenzie’s decommissioning programme.
Cockenzie and Port Seton residents said the chimneys were “an architectural treasure”.
East Lothian MSP Iain Gray was among those who petitioned for the chimneys’ survival before demolition works were scheduled to begin – but was forced to abandon hopes of protecting the landmarks after he was convinced they were not structurally sound.
And despite plans to safeguard the main structure of the power plant from complete demolition, even area conservationists agreed that the chimneys’ days were always numbered.
Sheila Chambers, leader of the Cockenzie and Port Seton Community Council, said many in the surrounding villages would be “heartbroken” to see them come down.
“The chimneys have always been a source of nostalgia for people in the area,” she said.
“Cockenzie is the first thing you see when you’re flying into Edinburgh Airport and so it’s the first thing people see when they’re returning home. Then you’ve got hundreds of former staff that spent their entire working lives at Cockenzie. Seeing those chimneys finally come down is going to hurt for a lot of those people and feel like we’re losing a little bit of our heritage.”
Cockenzie Power Station went live in 1967 to critical acclaim. The 24-hectare site was the UK’s largest-ever coal-burning power plant.
But a 2005 report by the World Wildlife Fund named Cockenzie the UK’s least efficient in terms of carbon emission, with the site burning through some 1.5 million tonnes worth of coal per annum.
Subsequent changes in European law sealed the station’s fate and it was earmarked for closure in 2013.
Next week, officials will oversee the ninth controlled explosion at Cockenzie since it shut down. Attention will then shift to bringing down the 500ft chimneys themselves.
A spokesman for Scottish Power said: “We plan to conduct meetings with various community groups and hold consultations at the start of next year so that we can ensure residents are involved in the process from start to finish.”
He also added that plans were still being considered to allow a member of the public to press the button when it is time to demolish the chimneys.
Carl Barber, a co-founder of the Coastal Regeneration Alliance, said: “When the station was in operation, a lot of the emissions from the chimneys blew over a lot of people’s homes. No-one will be sad to see that go.”