Skip to content

Business & Economy

Guest Contributor: Planning for the future – while remembering the past

With Redcar’s famous blast furnace having been razed to the ground late last year, work to transform the town’s former steelworks site has entered a fresh chapter. Here, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, who is leading the drive to redevelop the sprawling space into the Teesworks clean energy hub, tells North East Times Magazine why the iconic structure had to go – and why it will never be forgotten.


The blast furnace – dominating Teesside’s skyline for decades – was a symbol of a proud industry that helped build the world, and was the fiery heart of communities across Redcar and beyond.

Make no mistake, its demolition was incredibly sad; it was, after all, a monument to our rich iron and steelmaking heritage.

But it speaks of a tragedy that took place long before today – back in 2015, when thousands of workers lost their jobs overnight as the plant was closed.

There are a lot of happy memories associated with the structure, but just as many painful ones.

That’s why – for those I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with as the giant structure was razed – there was also a sense of hope and rebirth.

There was optimism for the future, and a knowing that its removal and replacement would help the next generation make fond memories.

I stood beside representatives from BP, whose £1.5 billion, world-first Net Zero Teesside carbon capture, utilisation, storage and gas-fired power plant project will stand where the blast furnace once did.

This will become a beacon for low-carbon ambition, helping power homes and decarbonise industry, while creating up to 5500 good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people – the reason, ultimately, we are doing all of this.

Over the past two years, we’ve brought down almost all of Teesworks’ iron and steelmaking structures, including the sinter plant, the pulverised coal injection plant, hundreds of metres of conveyors, stock houses and much more.

When we first set out on this journey, we estimated a demolition schedule of around seven years.

It has been delivered ahead of time and, crucially, within budget.

Spades are in the ground on SeAH Wind’s mammoth monopile factory, and the first jobs are already being created.

Circular Fuels’ renewable gas facility is also earmarked for the site, and the South Bank Quay is well under way – another string to our bow as part of the UK’s largest and first operational freeport.

We will never forget the history of the site; the Teesside Archives team and former steelworkers will be gathering memories through interviews to enhance our efforts over the coming weeks.

Photographers and Historic England have painstakingly recorded the progress at the site, and Middlesbrough-based Animmersion will ensure its legacy lives on in a 3D virtual model, to ensure new generations never forget the vital role it played.

Be assured, we’ll continue to honour the pioneers who put Teesside on the map.

But the future is bright as we make Teesworks a modern, forward-looking hub for the cleaner, healthier and safer industries of tomorrow.