A senior Treasury minister responsible for economic growth in Tees Valley has today visited the South Tees Development Corporation site to learn about the area’s “transformational opportunity” for local people.
Robert Jenrick MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, met with Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and members of the Development Corporation board, where he learned of the 25-year vision to create 20,000 jobs and drive an additional £1billion per year into the local economy.
Mr Jenrick is the latest Treasury minister to travel to the site of the former SSI steelworks and throw his weight behind the project, after a visit by Liz Truss MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in June.
It also follows an important intervention by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond MP who awarded the Development Corporation site £123million in last year’s Budget, and whose letter to the Governor of the Bank of Thailand played a “crucial role” in laying the groundwork for negotiations with the Thai banks to secure the land.
In May, Mayor Houchen led a delegation to Bangkok where an agreement in principle was signed with the three Thai banks who hold an interest in the former SSI site. Subject to approval, the deal will start the process of returning the land to local control. Compulsory purchase proceedings have begun in parallel, however it is hoped these will not have to be used.
The Development Corporation supports the Government’s productivity drive by ensuring a strong alignment with its Industrial Strategy. It is backing innovation by prioritising uses linked to advanced manufacturing and new technologies while supporting development of a low-carbon circular economy. It aims to create strategic alliances with major operators, with a broad mix of complementary investors producing highly skilled jobs.
Tees Valley Mayor and Chairman of the South Tees Development Corporation, Ben Houchen said: “As part of my Treasury charm offensive, I’m delighted to welcome yet another Government minister to the Development Corporation site.
“Thanks to Robert and his colleagues, we’ve managed to secure an agreement in principle with the Thai banks to take back control of the SSI land, and have been awarded £123million to kick-start remediation work.
“While we’re making progress with the Thai banks, I’ve made it crystal clear that we’ll compulsory purchase the site if the final deal isn’t signed soon. We have investors lining up and ready to go, but we just need the land – it’s the final piece of the jigsaw.
“Today’s visit was a fantastic opportunity to present our case to the Minister for a package of financial support in time for next year’s Spending Review. With a bit more help, we will be able to accelerate the transformation of the site and allow us to unlock private sector investment and bring thousands of jobs back to the region.”
Speaking on the visit, Mr Jenrick said: “We are investing in improving connectivity, strengthening skills, supporting enterprise and innovation, and promoting trade – building an economy that works for everyone, and making Tees Valley an even better place to live and work.
“This area has a key role to play in the new economy and, by working closely with local leaders such as the mayor Ben Houchen and Simon Clarke MP, we will ensure the Northern Powerhouse continues to boost growth and productivity across the country.”