THE regeneration of a Teesside steelworks is being held to ransom by bankers, it has been claimed.

Redcar MP Anna Turley says any hope of revitalising the former SSI UK site into a base for fresh investment and jobs is being hampered by the collapsed company’s financiers.

The steelmaker went into liquidation nearly a year ago, leaving thousands of people redundant, after the company buckled under depressed steel prices, Chinese imports and the huge cost of relighting the old Corus blast furnace.

The impact of SSI UK’s demise is still felt across the region today, with many ex-workers yet to find jobs.

Last night, it was also confirmed the blow continues to resonate in SSI’s native Thailand, where three banks have now been appointed to take a hands-on approach to the business’ so-called rehabilitation.

However, in Redcar, where, on September 18 last year, iron and steelmaking was stopped after issues with material supplies and services proved too much, unanswered questions remain over the future of SSI’s vast plant.

The government, which received criticism from MPs and workers in the aftermath of SSI’s liquidation, says it is committed to helping those affected, with Lord Michael Heseltine leading a drive to clean-up and re-develop the works, improve transport links and boost skills.

However, Ms Turley, who joined demonstrators to make an impassioned plea for government support to save Teesside’s steel heritage during SSI’s last days, said the works are vital to any future revitalisation of the region.

She told The Northern Echo: “This 1,798-acre site has enormous potential to drive the vital regeneration of our local economy and society.

“The future use of this site could create thousands of jobs in a wide range of industries, from steel recycling to energy and power; from imports and exports to chemical processing.

“The problem is the land still remains in the hands of the official receiver on behalf of the Thai banks.

“The banks stand in the way of regenerating the site and we cannot allow them to hold our future to ransom.”

Ms Turley was one of a number of MPs who criticised the government’s response to SSI’s collapse, saying a lack of clarity over strategy meant steel firms, already battling lower prices and market oversupply, were hit further by the impact of cheap Chinese imports and costly business rates.

Andy McDonald, Middlesbrough MP, who previously described the government’s action over SSI as “breathtaking industrial vandalism”, echoed Ms Turley’s worries about the site, reiterating a warning he made last year over potential environmental damage.

However, he said it was equally important to ensure Teesside was at the forefront of new industry, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), which aims to take carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and heavy industry and store it underground before it escapes into the atmosphere.

He also pointed to the Material Processing Institute (MPI), based near Middlesbrough, which focuses on the research and development of next generation steel and metals.

He added: “We are a year on and I’m not aware of any significant progress been made on the site.

“We cannot carry on with such an expense, it is not a good use of anybody’s resources.

“However, it is important we press ahead with some of the opportunities around.

“Our industrial base would be absolutely ripe for CCS and we have the MPI too, which is a crucial part of our industrial strength.”

SSI’s collapse, which was officially confirmed on October 12 last year, signalled the loss of almost 2,200 jobs at the former British Steel site.

Figures last week, issued by the SSI Task Force support body, showed the vast majority of the 2,150 people who claimed benefit in the aftermath of SSI’s failure are now off welfare payments and into work or training.

However, it offered caution to the figures, saying a number have been forced to accept major pay cuts and some are still relying on emergency funding to pay bills.

But Middlesbrough-born Business and Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, said the government was aware of the situation and had no intention of leaving Teesside to fend for itself.

He added: “Growing up in Teesside, I know the closure of SSI had a huge impact on the communities of Redcar and the Tees Valley.

“Government assistance has supported the vast majority of those affected into new jobs, helped them set up new businesses or get the training to start on a new career path.

“But there is more we can do to support local growth in the area.”

See next week's Northern Echo for further coverage of the impact of SSI UK's closure.

It will include:

Life after steel - workers' delight and despair as they bid to turnaround their lives

'We are committed' - The government lays out its plans for Teesside industry

How it fell apart - A look back at SSI UK's highs and lows