THE Government has been urged to come clean about its plans for the SSI steelworks site after a minister let slip that an announcement about its future could be imminent.

The Northern Echo has seen a letter from Redcar MP Anna Turley asking business minister Anna Soubry to ensure local people are given a full say in what happens next at the defunct site before the Government presses ahead with its plans.

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Lord Heseltine, as chairman of Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative, was understood to be spearheading efforts to bring investors and jobs into the area following the closure of SSI at the start of October last year. The appointment of the veteran Tory peer a month after the works was liquidated was labelled "a PR stunt" by unions angered that David Cameron had failed to honour his pledge to do everything he could to ensure Redcar remained a steel town.

The Northern Echo:
Anna Turley has written a letter to BIS minister Anna Soubry asking about future plans for the former SSI steelworks site.

Since he was appointed there have been no official updates from Lord Heseltine about his new role and requests from the Echo to interview the former Deputy Prime Minister have been ignored.

During a Commons debate this week, Ms Soubry revealed it had been her idea to ask Lord Heseltine, who famously helped regenerate parts of Liverpool in the early 1980s, to bring his "vision and drive" to help kickstart Redcar's regeneration.

Ms Soubry said: "I know he can often be a controversial figure, but he is an astonishing person. He has the ability to bring all the people and all the organisations together."

She added: "He has gone up there, and he has a vision and is knitting things together. I hope that in a short period of time we will be in a position to announce more about the future of the works at SSI and what we can do there."

The demise of the region’s last iron and steel plant has led to more than 3,000 job losses; put suppliers out of business, and left a black hole in the regional economy.

Only 92 of the almost 2,200 people who worked at SSI Redcar are still employed on the plant. The official receiver has kept them on to help maintain assets as well as manage safety and security on a site that includes Europe’s largest blast furnace, gas and water pipelines, a wharf, offices, and a £38m coal injection (PCI) plant that SSI installed three years ago.

"I made the point in the debate of the importance of consulting with local people when any decision is made on site development," Redcar's Labour MP Ms Turley writes in her letter, adding: "As such I would be grateful if you were to outline how Lord Heseltine and your department (BIS) will be consulting with local people, organisations and politicians on this matter, what timeframe has been put in place to allow for consultation, and through what channels people can direct their concerns and ideas about the future of the site.

"The vast financial costs of maintaining the site are of extreme significance, and if there are cost implications for the local area, these decisions must be carefully considered with all relevant bodies.

"Furthermore, I had understood that responsibility for the site, including any future development on it, would fall under the control of the Official Receiver who is accountable to the courts, rather than at a political level.

"I would greatly appreciate it if you were to clarify the precise role that Lord Heseltine and the Tees Valley Inward Investment Initiative will take in the process of development of the site," said the Redcar MP.