A FORMER steelworks could be transformed under ambitious plans to put the North-East at the heart of a £16bn airport expansion.

Thousands of acres of Teesside land – including Redcar’s idle SSI UK works – have been put forward for development as a construction base for Heathrow’s third runway project.

Last night, Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said he was confident the bid would create and support hundreds of North-East jobs and highlight the area’s “capability and capacity to deliver massive projects.”

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Tarmac Trading’s Thrislington quarry, near Ferryhill, County Durham, and steel contractor Severfield, which has a factory on Dalton Airfield Industrial Estate, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, and previously carried out a £50m contract on Heathrow’s Terminal 2, are also in the running.

Under the plans, four hubs will be created across the UK, allowing for the pre-assembly of components for Heathrow’s new runway, which was recommended by the Airports Commission in 2015 and backed by the Government last year.

Officials are due to visit bidders in January to assess their potential.

The Teesside plans, submitted by the Tees Valley Combined Authority via the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), have been backed by North-East firms including British Steel, Darlington’s Cleveland Bridge, PD Ports, AV Dawson and the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

Last month, Mr Houchen unveiled a 25-year regeneration plan that set out STDC’s goals for the Tees Valley, which included the re-development of swathes of land, including the old SSI UK base, into an industrial park.

Speaking about Heathrow’s runway proposals, which include a blueprint to add Durham Tees Valley Airport to a provisional domestic flights list, Mr Houchen said they would bolster his vision for positive change in the area.

He said: “We always think big in the Tees Valley.

“We have the capability and capacity to deliver massive projects, and I am pleased Heathrow have recognised this.

“Our case is strong because we have world-class expertise, excellent infrastructure, a pool of skilled and talented workers and a strong supply chain.

“The hub proposals complement perfectly with the STDC’s emerging master plan that supports industrial growth and job creation.”

Sue Jeffrey, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, added: “Redcar is uniquely placed to be a logistics hub to Heathrow.

“Our area is seeing significant growth and global interest because of the huge potential we offer to businesses.”

SSI’s ex-base has stood empty since the company, which never made a profit despite smashing a number of production records, collapsed into liquidation more than two years ago.

Its closure caused thousands of job losses, both at the firm and in the local supply chain, with many former steelworkers, who are now back in employment, on substantially lower pay.

Heathrow was involved in a long-running battle with rival Gatwick, run by Bishop Auckland-born boss Stewart Wingate, over expansion, with the latter saying his plans for second runway would have been cheaper and caused less environmental damage.

The Government came down in favour of Heathrow, but a public consultation on its planned third runway has now been re-opened to include new evidence.

The Department for Transport (DFT) has published a series of new reports on the environmental impact of expanding the west London airport, with consultation running until December.

Officials at the DFT said it remains on track to publish final proposals for expansion in the first half of 2018, ahead of a vote in Parliament.

Despite the issues, Lord Deighton, Heathrow chairman, said it must continue to look forward, with its manufacturing hubs a key facet in that vision.

He added: “Heathrow’s third runway will rely on talent from all over Britain helping to create a national asset for generations to come.

“The third runway is not a London centric project – it is one we are opening up to the whole of the UK, asking for its skills and expertise to help build an asset this country so desperately needs to safeguard its future prosperity.”