Ben Houchen, the Mayor of Tees Valley, has become the first of the new ‘Metro Mayors’ to use his powers to create a Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC).

The South Tees Development Corporation is the first MDC outside of London, and aims to revive the economic prosperity of a 5,000-acre area south of the River Tees.

The site includes the Redcar Steelworks, which saw 3000 job losses because of Sahaviriya Steel Industries UK (SSI) pulling out of the area in 2015.

This is part of a larger ‘regeneration masterplan’, which was launched by the Prime Minister back in August.

Tees Valley
Ben Houchen, Theresa May MP, Jake Berry MP, and Greg Clark MP, in Teeside to launch the ‘masterplan’. Credit: Ben Houchen.

Speaking at the launch, Theresa May said: “I want every part of the UK to reach its full potential and the regeneration of South Tees is a crucial step to stimulate economic growth across Tees Valley.

“The South Tees Development Corporation – the first of its kind outside of London – is a prime example of how placing power in the hands of local communities can drive growth.

“To deliver a strong, outward-looking Northern Powerhouse, part of an Industrial Strategy that works to improve productivity, we have to see all corners of the North reach their full economic potential.

“This long-term plan being led by Mayor Ben Houchen will bring great new opportunities for South Tees, helping to create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and in turn provide high-quality jobs for local people.”

However, the South Tees Development Corporation is not just a Conservative project.

Labour Party figures in the area, as well as Business leaders, are on the board of the corporation and are just as invested.

Cllr. Sue Jeffrey. Credit: UNISON.

Cllr. Sue Jeffrey, the Labour leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, commented on the co-operative attitude saying: “This is a hugely important development for the future of the Tees Valley, and for Redcar and Cleveland, and we are going to make it work.

“That means, the politicians, the business people, all the people that are collectively round that table are there to bring our expertise to that project and to deliver on that vision.”

But what is the vision for the area?

Cllr. Jeffrey said: “It’s not like a site where you are just going to flatten it and clear it, and build something completely new on top of it.

“That just wouldn’t work for that site, so it’s bound to be an industrial site going forward.”

As for what kind of industry will be based on the site, Cllr. Jeffrey believes that that remains to be seen.

However, she does point to the continued existence of British Steel on the site as well as the newcomer MGT Teesside, owner of the new £650m Tees Renewable Energy Plant.

The ultimate goal for the site, Cllr. Jeffrey said, is to create a ‘circular economy’, with by-products from industries on the site being used to power other industries on the site, creating a self-sufficient economic engine.

Teesside Site
The Teesside site in question. Credit: Mick Garratt. Under licence.

What can the South Tees Development Corporation do to achieve this goal?

It is worth stressing that British Steel and MGT Teesside were both committed to the site before the South Tees Development Corporation officially came into existence.

The hope is that the corporation will build on this foundation and bring in new investors.

Its powers include, but are not limited to; compulsory purchase, the ability to offer deals on business rates, the ability to pool land, and the opportunity to apply for grants.

Redcar and Cleveland Council will also produce a supplementary planning document specifically for the area, with the aim of expediting planning applications.

Cllr. Jeffrey added: “But I think, most of all, it has that opportunity to sell the area as a whole site, rather than lots of different individuals trying to market various bits of it.

“So, it can sell a vision for what the industrial future of the Tees Valley is and what it has to offer, and I think that’s very attractive to people.”

Could this work in other areas?

When asked whether she would advise any other combined authority to follow the lead of Tees Valley and create a MDC, Cllr. Jeffrey said: “I certainly wouldn’t advise anybody.”

“I think what it is, is another tool in the toolbox that combined authorities, and mayoral combined authorities, have available to them.

“People, I’m sure, will be looking at it to see whether or not it would work for them in their particular circumstance, and I think in some cases it will and in others it won’t.”

We will have to wait and see whether the ‘Metro Mayors’ in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, the Liverpool City Region, the West Midlands, and the West of England, will create their own MDCs.

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