A DEAL could be done in the next seven days to bring a former steelworks site back into public ownership.

The South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) wants to control all the land around the former SSI site in Redcar, which closed in 2015, so it can develop the land, creating up to 20,000 new jobs.

A public inquiry got underway today into the proposed compulsory purchase of the 870 acre site from the Thai banks which own it.

But Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said negotiations to reach a deal on the site were at an "advanced stage".

He added: "I have been working extremely hard over recent months to try and secure a deal with SSI and the Thai banks to bring the former Redcar steelworks site back under public ownership.

“Negotiations are now at an advanced stage, and we think there is a deal to be done, subject to the three Thai banks approving it.

"To allow this to happen it will require seven days for the banks to go through the process needed to finalise the agreement.

“I am hopeful that after five years we will soon be in a position to start breathing new life into the former Redcar steelworks site.

“But even if a deal isn’t agreed, court proceedings have started as we cannot allow any delay in getting back this site”

The inquiry, which is scheduled to take up to three weeks and is taking place at the South Tees Business Centre, started today.

Barristers acting for the parties outlined their position before those involved in the inquiry went on a visit of the site.

In evidence already submitted to the inquiry, the three Thai banks have objected to the compulsory purchase order (CPO), arguing it is "fundamentally misconceived" and "significantly premature".

Other businesses with sites near the land have also objected, asking for reassurances their interests will not be affected by the development plans.

STDC has already acquired 1,420 acres of land which it wants to regenerate over the next 25 years.

David Allison, chief executive of STDC, has written a report saying it is "imperative" that hazardous infrastructure on the sire is addressed as a matter of urgency, warning that towers at the former coke ovens are at risk of collapse.