SURVIVAL hopes for Teesside steelworks were yesterday snuffed out by the decision to close down Redcar coke ovens and blast furnace.

The announcement at 3.05pm from official receiver Ken Beasley will lead to almost 2,200 job losses at the former British Steel site and signals the end of an industry that made the North-East world famous.

In addition, it thwarts hopes of a potential rescue deal which would have seen County Durham coal firm Hargreaves Services continue to help manage fuel supplies while a buyer for the site was sought.

Councillor Sue Jeffrey, Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: “This is the worst possible news and is an absolutely heartbreaking moment for all of us.”

Tees MPs accused the Government of turning its back on the region’s last remaining iron and steelworks.

Over the weekend Mr Beasley had agreed to keep the coke ovens alight to allow negotiations with prospective buyers, but after “no viable offers were received” he said he could no longer spend taxpayers’ money on keeping them burning.

The works have been hands in the hands of receivers since the site's owner SSI was wound up on October 2.

Mr Beasley, said: “SSI was placed into liquidation with substantial debts and had no funds available to purchase the coal needed to keep the coking ovens operational. I have ensured the continued operation of the ovens whilst I dealt with health and safety issues and considered whether there were any viable offers for the ovens.

He added: "I cannot continue to draw on taxpayers' funds to keep the ovens operational when there is no realistic prospect that a buyer will be found.

"I am continuing my liquidation of the company, including talking with interested parties about purchasing the company's other assets.

"I thank the staff who have been involved in the continued operation of the company and recognise the great efforts that have been put in and the professionalism shown by people in a time of enormous personal pressure."

In the coming days the coke ovens will be allowed to cool and collapse which will put them permanently out of action. Some the ovens’ 450 workers will be kept on for a few weeks as part of a decommissioning team, but most will join the 1,700 Redcar steelworkers who have been laid off over the last three weeks. A small number of staff continue to work at the site in support of the receiver.

Ministers have set aside an £80m fund to help make statutory redundancy payments and support former steelworkers into new jobs. They have been urged to spend additional money to undertake a carefully controlled mothballing of the blast furnace rather than allow a so-called ‘hard closure’ to take place that will damage assets and leave the public picking up the cost estimated at £600m of cleaning the site.

Yesterday's decision, which came ahead of a steel crisis summit taking place on Friday, sparked widespread dismay and anger across the region.

Cllr Jeffrey added: “Our proud history of years of steelmaking has been torn out from under us. We have been so proud of our heritage and I cannot believe it has slipped away in the space of a few weeks.

“So many people have been affected by the closure – the steelworkers and their families, the supply chain and the wider economic impact this will have on our local area. It is devastating.

“We have already committed to doing everything we possibly can as a council to support the men and women in our communities who have lost their jobs and have had their lives turned upside down.

“The Government has had plenty of opportunities to intervene but it has just allowed this to happen – it should have stepped in sooner to help.

“The £80m package provided is simply not enough, especially as it will also fund the redundancy payments.

“And any decision around the long-term future of the site should have come after the steel summit on Friday. This future of steelmaking in the Tees Valley should have been a focal point of those discussions. What is the point of making this decision prior to those talks?

“We now need to look at if the hard closure takes place as has been indicated, how we look to secure the site for the future and bring it back to contributing towards the economy in Redcar.”