28.02.20

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council - Steely determination

Source: PSE Feb/March 20

Mary Lanigan, Council Leader for Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Steel has been the lifeblood of generations in Redcar and Cleveland.

We like to tell everyone we meet that our steel built the world; it’s not wholly true, but our steel did build many of the world’s great bridges, including the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is also responsible for Newcastle’s Tyne Bridge and the small matter of the Indian railways.

Steel has provided thousands of well-paid jobs and supported families around the area. You won’t meet many people around our borough who didn’t have a relative or friend working in steel, so it’s not surprising it has created a strong sense of identity and will always be linked to our history.

In 2015, Redcar suffered the hammer blow of seeing its steelworks go into liquidation, with the immediate loss of around 2,000 jobs, plus a further 1,000 in the supply chain.

Any area that loses a major employer suffers and in truth it was about more than just the loss of work for our area. In many cases those who lost their jobs had never known anything different; their own fathers may have worked in the industry before they got jobs at the works themselves. The dedication and sense of community among the workforce was a part of what made the Redcar steelworks so special.

Now, though, the former steelworks site has a very different feel about it.

The site is enormous – one of the largest industrial sites in Europe – and so is its potential. It also sits next to the River Tees and Teesport, already England’s biggest exporting port.

It is well connected by road and easy to access for future workers from around Redcar and Cleveland and the wider Tees Valley.

That land is now maintained and marketed by the South Tees Development Corporation. I sit on the board, along with other political, business and public sector leaders.

The Corporation has had more than 100 enquiries from companies around the world which have shown interest in being part of the site’s future. The encouraging thing has been the quality of the companies we have been talking to; they are at the cutting edge of what they do and their presence where we live would be a huge enhancement to our offer.

The STDC site really does provide a fabulous opportunity for companies to become part of something which will be transformational to the economies of Redcar and Cleveland, the North East and the whole of the North of England.

There is also the prospect of another benefit, perversely at a time when a good proportion of the country is looking forward with caution.

While Brexit brings uncertainty about how our industries will fare in the new world, it gives a huge opportunity to the STDC site with the possibility of a freeport.

The Government has spoken encouragingly about the area around Teesport becoming a freeport and enjoying tariff-free status at a time when doing so will potentially provide a huge advantage to those within the zone.

In the meantime, the site will be reclaimed and decontaminated to become home to thriving industry which will bring thousands of jobs and the resultant prosperity to families in our borough and the wider Teesside area.

The Government funded the cost of securing the site and recently announced a further £71m to prepare it for investment. Confirming new companies coming to the site will be hugely exciting.

There will be a need for further significant investment to continue that development but there is no doubt it will be repaid over time by the increased prosperity it will bring. The project really is that big.

We look forward to continuing working with Whitehall to make the ambition a reality.

Our borough has a history of innovation and industrial excellence, and with the right support, there’s no reason why that won’t continue to be the case long into the future.

We are keen to work with companies to bring work and prosperity to the families who proudly call Redcar and Cleveland their home.

There has been positive news on the Sirius Minerals project near Whitby, a transformative venture which would employ hundreds of people from our area. We are also still hopeful on the outcome of talks that would see two British Steel plants in our borough taken over, securing hundreds more well-paid jobs.

Life has been challenging since the closure of our steelworks, but a bright future for thousands of people is developing on the site which was once its home.

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