CALLS have been made for further details on why proposals to preserve parts of Teesside’s former steelworks have been dropped.
This month, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen announced the blast furnace and coke ovens on the former SSI site in Redcar were among the structures to be demolished as part of a £150m programme to clear the site for regeneration.
The South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) had previously suggested preserving the blast furnace and coke ovens, along with the Dorman Long tower, which Redcar MP Jacob Young is now campaigning to save.
In its masterplan, which was drafted in 2017 and published last November, STDC said the retention of the structures would be subject to establishing a business case and collaborating with community groups.
Last week, Labour’s candidate for Tees Valley Mayor Jessie Joe Jacob said turning the steel structures into a tourist attraction should be explored.
Questions have now been raised by Pat McCarthy, from Redcar, who was part of the Tees Steel: Bridging the World project, set up after the closure of the steelworks to look at site’s future and says she was unaware a decision had been made to demolish the blast furnace.
She said: “We thought we had a compromise that those three structures would be landscaped into the site. It was a compromise that acknowledged the history of the steelworks.”
Mrs McCarthy, whose husband was a fitter in the steelworks, added: “It (the demolition announcement) was absolutely a shock. I don’t believe there has been any form of consultation since the masterplan was published and if it has, it hasn’t been made public.
“What I’m asking is has detailed work been done and if so can it be made public? We went through a democratic process and it seems to have been ignored.”
Talking about the blast furnace, she added: “It’s a structure the engineering of which is unparalleled in our region. I want it to be celebrated as public art. It doesn’t stop us from moving forward. We need to move forward, but we need to take the past with us.”
A spokesperson for Mr Houchen said developments over the last 12 months, including “specific investment interest” and continued deterioration, meant the mayor no longer considered it a viable option.
Mr Houchen said: “Consultation with local people is already underway and the vast majority of feedback I have had is, although many will be sad to see these historic structures like the blast furnace and coke ovens disappear, they agree and recognise that creating local jobs for local workers is more important and therefore this is the right approach to take.
“We’ve also been speaking to the public for three years about the plans for the site. Government has given us more than £200m to demolish and clean the site – something I’ve publicly called for since being elected.
“The costs of repairing and maintaining the blast furnace would be astronomical and in my view this is money that would be better spent creating jobs for local people and attracting investment to the area. I appreciate my opponents would rather leave the site as it is to the detriment of jobs and progress, but the site as it stands is dangerous. I want to move Teesside forward into a bright future that respects our heritage but also creates jobs – we can successfully do both.”
He is asking for people’s views on how to remember the site. People can visit teesworks.co.uk/heritage to submit their ideas.