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Regional Regeneration Report: Teesside

Mark Hempshell reports

It is probably fair to say that Teesside and its largest settlement Middlesbrough do not receive a lot of coverage in the wider media and, when they do, it is invariably not that positive. However, there are a number of positive developments occurring around Teesside at the moment, which we will look at in this report.

Background and economy: The chief commercial centre of Teesside is Middlesbrough, which forms a conurbation with the smaller towns of Stockton on Tees, Thornaby on Tees, Billingham and Redcar. In the wider area are the towns of Hartlepool and Darlington taking the area population to approximately 490,000.

The local economy was historically based on heavy industry, particularly steelmaking, and largely remains so. However, the area was heavily impacted when Teesside Steelworks closed in 2015, when Thai-owned SSI went into liquidation resulting in a loss of 3,000 jobs. It is the regeneration of this site, which we will cover in detail later, that probably holds the key to the future success of the industrial economy here.

Teesside is also a major centre for chemical manufacture centred on the sizable Wilton International (one-time ICI) site. The 2,000 acre site is one of the UK’s most important locations for products including petrochemicals, commodity chemicals, fertilisers and polymers. Singapore-owned Sembcorp Utilities owns land and utility provision here and has recently gained approval for a major new 1.7GW gas turbine power plant.

In recent years, attempts have been made to attract new industries to Teesside. Emerging sectors now present here include healthcare, life sciences, digital and creative, professional services and energy and renewables. EEW Offshore Structures Britain manufactures wind turbine components here and MGT Teesside is developing the world’s largest purpose built biomass power station. There are also very early proposals for a carbon capture utilisation and storage plant which would employ new, cutting-edge technology.

Government and devolution: In contrast to some bigger northern cities, Teesside has successfully procured a devolution deal. It is very much this deal, which gives the region an element of autonomy and associated funding that could set Teesside apart from other ex-heavy industrial areas, most of which also have an ambition to regenerate.

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