ONLY a very optimistic person can gaze out on a wasteland and see nothing but opportunity.

Sir John Hall led the transformation of boggy land near the River Tyne into one of the biggest shopping and leisure centres in Europe.

Aycliffe Business Park was literally built on a bombsite – a few rows of WWII munitions factories which became the foundation for a vast industrial estate that now hosts some of County Durham’s biggest employers. The nearby Hitachi train factory is another example where vision and determination proved the naysayers wrong.

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Government support, such as tax breaks, and massive injections of taxpayers’ cash were also key to bringing these projects to life.

It is hard to deny that the 4,500-acre former SSI steel site is a mess – both in the state of much of the land and buildings and also in its ownership which is shared between a bunch of shadowy stakeholders from the Far East, and some UK businesses. The prospect of sorting out that mess is enough to make even the most optimistic developer seek a simpler project.

Ben Houchen, mayor of Tees Valley has made headlines for saying the old steelworks land could create 20,000 jobs over the next 25 years.

Turning that “could” into a “has” will be one of the biggest challenges this region has ever faced and it is in all our interests the project becomes more than just bold words.

We accept that part of the mayor’s job is to talk up the region and to convince potential investors that the steel site is an opportunity.

We support his efforts. He must also use his contacts at Westminster to ensure the Government plays a hands-on role to complete the revival of Redcar. They must never be allowed to walk away.