“I was pleased to see a very ambitious vision for regenerating the site with a focus on bringing much needed industrial and manufacturing jobs to Teesside. A commitment to 20,000 jobs over 20-25 years is a big aspiration and if successful could genuinely transform the local area. The number one priority I take from today is making sure it is local people on Teesside who get to benefit from this aspiration.
“It is also good to see there is space for steel heritage in the preservation of the blast furnace, as well as support for the South Gare nature reserve I have been working on. As a prime industrial land by a deep water port with access to a skilled workforce, I have no doubt it would be a perfect location for the world class industrial park heralded in the masterplan. But bringing these big ideas to fruition it going to take some work.
“A patchwork of land ownership, including the liquidated SSI, is going to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. Some serious negotiation and diplomacy is going to be needed to solve it. There are still big questions over funding too. This isn’t a project with a small price tag and I want to see some firm commitment from government on how they intend to pay for it. The Mayor should be doing his upmost to lobby for that funding too. We can’t afford for the momentum behind regeneration to be lost and for plans to wither on the vine due to lack of money.
“The closure of the steelworks struck a massive blow to the local economy and livelihoods that we are still reeling from. It is crucial we get the regeneration right so something good and positive can come from the ashes. That has to start with consulting the community and ensuring the views of the families affected are taken on board. Such a big project with a long timescale needs to have the confidence of Teessiders and to ensure that they can fully benefit from new jobs and business contracts as they become available.
“Significant progress has been promised within the next year and that is something I intend to hold the Mayor and the Government to account on. Projects at this scale do take time but we are already two years down the line, and the timescale set out today will effectively take a generation. As it stands this project is more likely to benefit current and future children of ex SSI workers than it is the men and women who lost their jobs at the works. We have to pull out all of the stops to get this moving and get jobs created. I’m ready to do my bit and it will take everyone working together to deliver this. I hope local people have their say through this consultation.”