IT’S growing – the Emley Moor TV transmitter is shooting for the sky.
But those hoping for new records are set to be disappointed as the mast’s belated growth spurt will see it rise just a few extra metres when crucial upgrade work happens later this year.
The work on the TV mast – already the tallest free-standing structure in the UK – is all down to the upcoming digital switch-over and will see the 330 metres (1,084 ft) tower grow five metres.
But this will still leave it more than 200m shorter than Europe’s tallest structure – the Ostankino Tower in Russia.
A spokeswoman for Arqiva, the mast’s owners, said the work would not alter the looks of the famous grade-two listed TV transmitter.
She said: “The existing analogue antennas are being upgraded and moved to digital for the upcoming switch-over. That work is taking place inside the tower and will not have any visible impact on the structure.
“A new digital TV reserve antenna will be installed at a slightly lower height and will also not itself have any visible impact on the structure but to allow this work to proceed, a temporary antenna is necessary, this requires the top section of the existing lattice section around the main structure above the turret viewing area to be removed.
“And a new small radio antenna is also being installed on the top of the mast. This is to allow the mast engineers safe access to upgrade the digital TV antennas. This new radio antenna will effectively increase the height of the structure by about five metres, although because the antenna is small in profile, it will not impact on the structure profile significantly.”
The current Emley Moor TV transmitter, the site’s third, was rebuilt in 1971 after the second 385m (1,263 ft) mast famously collapsed on March 19, 1969. The original mast, built in 1956 was just 132m tall (433 ft) and was replaced in 1964.
It was originally thought an accumulation of ice caused a guy rope to snap which led to the structure collapsing, but a committee of inquiry later attributed it to a vibration caused by steady gusts of wind.
The tower, then known as the ITA mast, crashed to the ground just after 5pm only minutes after six workmen who had been building at the foot of the mast had gone home.
The noise from the smash was said to be heard for miles around, and people from as far away as Shelley rushed to the scene to see what had happened.
They knew something disastrous had occurred but because of the thick fog they could not see that the mast had actually fallen.
The mast had crashed through Emley Moor Methodist Church and on to a nearby road, leaving twisted metal wreckage strewn across the area. In some places the the huge steel tubes had buried themselves five feet into the ground.
Amazingly no one was killed, but two men inside the church when cables supporting the mast crashed through the roof, 68-year-old Clr Silverwood Burt of Kirkburton and 42-year-old Jeffrey Jessop of Emley, were counting themselves as lucky to be alive, a cut hand to Mr Jessop, the church caretaker, being the only injury.
The men had been in the church inspecting earlier damage caused by ice falling from the mast’s guy wires – a common problem at the time.
Villagers would later protest against the building of a new mast on the same site, saying it should be moved further away into the countryside.
Owners ITA (Independent Television Authority) offered to rehouse the residents but most said they would refuse the offer.
Reports from the time reveal ITA planned to re-erect the original 132m (433 ft) tower which had been moved to Scotland or possibly import a £50,000 210m (690 ft) transmitter from Sweden.
Another option debated by councillors was flying an antenna from a barrage balloon as had been done in America, but this was later dismissed as not technically viable.
The disaster left around 3.5m without ITV coverage although speedy work restored BBC2 coverage within just two days and 2.2m ITV viewers regained pictures after four days. A number of temporary antennas were erected until the current concrete tower was made operational in January 1971.
Meanwhile the site was swamped with hundreds of sightseers, eager to see the wreckage with their own eyes, despite a police appeal to stay away.
The shattered remains of the huge tower would lay as they fell for more than 18-months while the inquiry team carried out their investigation.