Tees Valley CA is to use compulsory purchase powers in a bid to end a long-running dispute with three Thai banks and bring a former steelworks site in Redcar back into public ownership.
Almost 3,000 people who worked at the site lost their jobs in 2015 when the Thai steel firm SSI went into receivership, and Redcar has been left with a youth unemployment rate that’s more than double the UK average.
Last month, a deal was signed by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen to acquire over half of developable land at the site, comprising 1,420 acres which is roughly the size of Gibralter, from Tata Steel Europe.
But negotiations to secure the remaining 870 acres controlled by the three banks for development, including the former Redcar blast furnace, reached a deadlock over the value of the land.
Today the combined authority has responded by approving a compulsory purchase order (CPO) in an effort to acquire the site.
Mr Houchen is also chairman of the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), which covers a 4,500-acre area of land to the south of the River Tees in Redcar & Cleveland BC and includes former SSI steelworks site as well as the deep-water port of Teesport.
Since it was launched in 2017 as the first mayoral development corporation outside London, the STDC says it has received more than 100 enquiries about developing the land and now has an investment ‘pipeline’ of £10bn as it aims to create 20,000 jobs over the next two decades.
Mr Houchen said “enough is enough” and accused the banks of failing to cooperate.
“While we have already secured more than half of all developable land on site, I’m not prepared to wait any longer to acquire the remaining 870 acres held by SSI UK in receivership,” he said. “We have been negotiating in good faith since I was elected, but it’s clear now that the Thai banks are taking us for a ride.
“I owe it to the former steelworkers and their families to secure the rest of the site for the people of Teesside where it belongs.
“The Thai Banks are clearly not playing ball, so we’ll exercise the powers handed to us by Parliament to ensure local people are back in control of the entire site… to land even more investment and create even more jobs for local people.”