Save our Steel Heritage and Tees Steel Bridging the World have started a petition demanding that the heart of the Redcar blast furnace be saved and turned into a monument to commemorate 170 years of iron and steel making on Teesside. “Larger than the Angel of the North, the Heart of the Furnace would act as an iconic sculpture, a new landmark for all Teessiders to be proud of”, say the organisers. The petition has already attracted more than 1,000 signatories.
A proposal has been submitted to Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, which, the organisers believe, “could not only save tax payers money in comparison to demolition, but could create a new visitor attraction for Redcar complementing the town’s ambitious plans to rejuvenate its tourism industry. Industrial heritage sites around the world attract millions of visitors a year” and “ it’s about time Teesside took some pride in its achievements and what better way to show that than retaining the UK’s largest blast furnace that will stand as a symbol for how we built the world.”
There is a degree of urgency to this petition, however, as the blast furnace is currently under threat of demolition. So, Ben Houchen is being asked to overturn this decision and allow the heart of the furnace (not the whole structure) to be saved.
The campaign’s organisers are dismayed by the fact that, at one time, there was an understanding that part of the blast furnace would be preserved. They point to the fact that that this understanding was contained with the planning application for Net Zero Teesside, which will occupy a site adjacent to the furnace. Subsequently, however, the Tees Valley Authority commissioned Primetals Ltd to prepare a report on the costs of retaining the furnace. The campaign organisers are disputing the conclusions of that report, which they insist were the result of a badly written brief, that resulted in the costs being significantly exaggerated.
A survey of public opinion later carried out by the Authority’s Heritage Task Force received few replies, yet their conclusion was that there was little public appetite for retaining the furnace. The campaigners have pointed out that, even at this early stage, their petition is demonstrating that there is, in fact, significant public support for the monument as they are proposing. They are also concerned that the decision to demolish the furnace may have already been taken before the Heritage Task Force began its work in any case, as mayor Ben Houchen announced the demolition weeks before the Task Force began its enquiries.
One issue has particularly concerned campaigners is that the Heritage Task Force survey suggested that retaining the blast furnace would be at the expense of jobs in the region. They claim that there is no such cost, and also that the furnace, sandwiched between the proposed Net Zero Teesside site and the road to the beaches at South Gare, would not interfere with land redevelopment on the Teesworks site.
Save Our Steel Heritage and Tees Steel Bridging the World observe, “Retaining the heart of the furnace complements the new developments on Teesside. We must all remember that without the 170 years of Ironmaking, Steelmaking and the more recent Chemical Industry there would be no deep-sea harbour and fantastic infrastructure needed to support the regeneration of Teesside. Strong links exist between that history and a great future.”
To support their petition, go to: https://www.change.org/SaveRedcarBlastFurnace