IT is shortly before midday in Redcar and Cleveland Council’s chamber.

Ben Houchen has just unveiled his masterplan to turn a former steelworks into a “world-class” industrial business park.

It includes proposals to spend millions of pounds on road, rail and port infrastructure, opening a research and innovation centre, embracing renewable energy and creating new nature reserves – as well as lighting up the blast furnace at night.

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He then takes questions from an audience of more than 250 business figures and politicians – with the help of Sue Jeffrey, who only months previously was competing against him in the race to become the first mayor of the Tees Valley.

As applause echoes off the walls inside the chamber, it is easy to be fooled into thinking Redcar is ready to rebuild itself after the tragedy of two years ago.

But not everyone sees it that way.

“By the time this is all up and running, the area will be without skilled workers,” says one former SSI employee.

“They will have left for pastures new and the majority of steelworkers will be able to watch in their old age because they have no money for anything else.”

It is clear that opinion is divided.

A poll on The Northern Echo website asked whether the plans were “what the area needed”, or were “too little too late”.

Dozens of readers voted – and the outcome was split exactly 50/50.

One former manager at the Redcar steelworks said the jobs created (Mr Houchen claims 20,000) will “not be for ex-furnace or steel plant operators in the near or distant future.”

It is a view shared by others.

“It is easy to make grand announcements quoting huge figures – delivering them is a totally different thing altogether.

“We don’t want false hope given to an already battered area,” said another.

But what realistically can be achieved on the site – which spans more than 4,000 acres? A major and costly clean-up is needed before any jobs can be set in stone.

And then there is the question of ownership.

The land where the development is proposed is still owned by SSI-IL (SSI in liquidation), Tata Steel, Redcar Bulk Terminal and British Steel.

The masterplan describes the fragmented land ownership pattern as a “constraint”, but Mr Houchen insists it “won’t be a problem” to purchase the site.

How much that will cost is another story.

“A patchwork of land ownership, including the liquidated SSI, is going to be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Some serious negotiation and diplomacy is going to be needed to solve it,” said Redcar MP Anna Turley.

“Projects at this scale do take time, and the timescale set out will effectively take a generation.

“As it stands this project is more likely to benefit current and future children of ex-SSI workers than it is the men and women who lost their jobs at the works.”

But some of those who were left without work can see the benefits.

“There is bitterness and negativity by a lot of people who worked at SSI, and that is understandable,”

said one former worker, who has found employment, but remains good friends with some who haven’t.

“This was their life for such a long time – all their memories from childhood to pension age are related to inside that factory.

They cannot just forget the past as some politicians can or think is possible.

“If the plans can be delivered, we will all say fair play to the mayor – of course we want it to flourish and we would love to see our kids and grandkids working there in the future – but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t painful.”

When Mr Houchen unveiled the masterplan last week, he claimed it would help to repair the “heartache and human tragedy” of the SSI collapse.

Whatever is achieved, that might never be possible. But if Mr Houchen can deliver what he set out last week, there will be many in Redcar quietly confident of a successful future for the town.

Whether he can, though, remains to be seen.