FIDDLERS Ferry Power Station will close next year, it has been announced.

Scottish and Southern Energy has confirmed that the coal-fire power station, an icon of the town’s skyline for nearly 50 years, will shut by the end of March 2020.

The jobs of nearly 160 people who work at the site have been put under threat by the move, although SSE says it will ‘seek to avoid compulsory redundancies where possible’.

Stephen Wheeler, managing director of thermal energy at SSE, said: “The proposed closure of SSE’s coal-fired power station at Fiddlers Ferry is a very difficult decision because of the impact on our employees and contractors at the station, their families and the local community.

READ MORE > Could power station site be used within local plan

“Financially, the station is making significant losses and our projections show that this will continue to be the case as the UK looks to phase out coal-fired generation by 2025 at latest.

“At nearly 50 years old, the station is unable to compete with more efficient and modern gas and renewable generation.

“We have a talented and dedicated team at Fiddlers Ferry and our priority is to support employees and ensure they have a range of options available to them for the future.

“SSE is proud of the social and economic contributions the station and our employees have made for the local area and wider society.”

READ > ‘Catch me if you can’ teen arrested after Facebook taunts

Warrington Guardian:

First opened in 1971, Fiddlers Ferry – which has ‘deteriorated to unsustainable levels’, having lost £40million in the last financial year – is SSE’s only remaining coal-fired plant.

The closure comes after a ‘comprehensive review’ by the energy company, which had previously announced in March this year that one of the four units at the Widnes Road site would shut.

But a full shutdown of the site comes several years earlier than had previously been expected.

Unions have described the closure of Fiddlers Ferry as a ‘real blow’ to workers and 'grim news' – although employees could be redeployed in other roles with SSE or be involved in the decommissioning of the plant.

Voluntary redundancies will also be offered ‘on enhanced terms’.

Warrington Guardian: Fiddlers Ferry

Sue Ferns, senior deputy general secretary at the Prospect union, added: “Today's announcement is a real blow to the dedicated staff at Fiddlers Ferry after a long period of uncertainty about the future.

“Prospect understands the necessity of transitioning away from high carbon generation, however we believe that it is essential that workers are supported during this transition and we will be working on behalf of those affected through this difficult period.

“The failure to resolve the hiatus in the capacity market and the wider uncertainty around energy policy have undoubtedly contributed to this decision.”

Meanwhile, the Unite union is set to meet with SSE management to 'press the case for redeployment opportunities and enhanced redundancy terms'.

Regional officer Graham Williams said: “This is very grim news for the workforce – ranging from admin to engineering jobs – and their families, as well as being a devastating blow for the economy in the north west.

“While we recognise that coal-fired electricity generation is being phased out, Fiddlers Ferry plays a significant role in providing back-up when there are surges in energy demand during cold snaps and the National Grid is seeking additional supplies.

“The fact that the government is not prepared to pay an economic price to have this reserve at the ready shows that ministers are more interested in the internal energy market than the country’s national interest.

“The closure of Fiddlers Ferry, which has provided energy to the National Grid for 50 years, increases the likelihood of possible future power cuts.

“We are meeting SSE management on Tuesday to discuss the mechanisms leading up to the closure.

“We note that SSE is seeking to avoid compulsory redundancies and we will be exploring redeployment opportunities and firming up the redundancy agreements we have with the company, so those members wishing to take that route have an enhanced package.” 

Warrington Guardian:

Tory Warrington South parliamentary candidate Andy Carter has also responded to the news.

He said: “I am very aware that this announcement has an immediate impact on the people currently working at Fiddlers Ferry and their families, and I hope that SSE will do all in their power to find suitable alternative employment for all those affected.

“Sadly, this news isn’t unexpected - the economics of coal-fired electricity generation have become increasingly challenging.

“It’s vital that the council now also take steps to engage with SSE to develop a plan for the Fiddlers Ferry site, so that land which can be used is regenerated as soon as possible - and we encourage business to locate here to provide employment for future generations.”