Today, the iconic Redcar Blast furnace will be demolished. The industrial structure that has been part of our skyline for years and a source of inspiration for many thousands, from photographs to artistic impressions, will disappear forever…
It is being cleared by the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, as part of his plan to bring regeneration to the area.
Many campaigners made clear that the site of the furnace is only 1/1000th the size of the whole former SSI site and could be kept to create a heritage sculpture to celebrate the past, alongside future developments. The mayor though had previously described it as a scar on the land and had little appetite to save it, stating it would be too expensive.
This created a lot of public outcry, particularly as the original plans for the old SSI site included exploring saving part of the historic and iconic structures on the site as cultural landmarks and the actual preservation costs were never provided, only that of turning it into an expensive visitor centre.
It was argued that many countries across the globe have repurposed old industrial sites including their old steel works and blast furnace like Landschaftspark, Duisburg, Germany, which is now a world famous tourist attraction.
I myself argued that Teesside absolutely needs to regenerate to bring new industry and quality jobs, but our steel heritage like other parts of our history could be a huge asset to the region, one that will also create jobs and prosperity based on a tourism economy.
I set out a vision to keep some of the heritage structures to create an iconic steel sculpture, a fitting memorial to Teesside’s proud steel and iron industrial heritage and something for many generations to come to enjoy and learn of our history.
It seems though that history repeats itself yet again and as is usually the way in Teesside, our history and heritage is demolished, based on the argument of progress for the future.
And so today as a few final visitors take to the coast to look out at the skyline and take images of the site, for one last time, the rest of Teesside waits with anticipation for the so called ‘progress’ that is promised us.