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Coal and Oil Fired Power Stations

This page covers research into coal and oil-fired power stations as they are decommissioned, including best practice on documenting them for the historical record.

Coal- and oil-fired power stations are among the largest and most recognisable industrial complexes the 20th-century produced.  They had a profound impact on the British landscape, visually, environmentally, and culturally, and the electricity they generated had a transformational impact on our economy and society.

Reaching an unrivalled scale and level of technological sophistication by the 1960s, these enormous installations that Sir Neil Cossons has described as the 'great temples to the carbon age' - are fast reaching the end of their useful lives.

Aerial view of a large power station complex, including a row of four massive cooling towers.
Ironbridge B, Shropshire, built between 1963 and 1968, the power station was carefully designed to sit within this sensitive landscape © Historic England 29444/005

Historic England’s research into power stations

Historic England recognises the important role these power stations played in meeting the nation’s energy needs during the 20th-century, their high technological interest and wider landscape impact. We have commissioned a report on the historical context of post-war power stations and published an ‘Introduction to Heritage Assets’  guide on power stations.

Records needed locally

To complement this work further records are needed, especially of those power stations that have closed or are facing closure. Such records should be undertaken to an appropriate and proportionate level that is necessary to understand the history, operation and development of these sites. Such an approach is in line with the policies set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (DCLG 2012).  We have produced guidelines for recording post-war power stations.

Although this guidance specifically refers to post-war coal- and oil-fired power stations it outlines a methodological approach which can be applied to other large scale industrial heritage assets.

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