Bittersweet is the only word to describe seeing a monument to our rich iron and steelmaking heritage – albeit one a shadow of its former self – being brought down.

The blast furnace – dominating Teesside’s skyline for decades – was a symbol of a proud industry that helped build the world and was the fiery heart of communities across Redcar and beyond.

The Northern Echo:

Make no mistake, its demolition is incredibly sad. But it speaks to a tragedy that took place long before today – back in 2015 when thousands of workers lost their jobs overnight as the plant was closed. There are a lot of happy memories associated with the structure but just as many painful ones, as families faced uncertainty on a mass scale.

That’s why – for those I stood shoulder to shoulder with as the giant structure was razed, including former steelworker Tony Evans – there was also a sense of hope and rebirth.

Tony, a Production Manager at the plant, has a deep affection for the site and reminisced to me about the great life he’d built on the back of his job – including meeting his wife at the blast furnace. He’s optimistic for the future and knows that its removal and replacement will help the next generation make similar memories.

I was also with representatives from bp, whose £1.5billion world-first Net Zero Teesside carbon capture, utilisation and storage project and gas fired power plant will stand where the blast furnace once did.

It will become a beacon for low-carbon ambition, helping power homes and decarbonise industry while creating up to 5,500 good-quality, well-paid jobs for local people – the reason, ultimately, we are doing all of this.

The demolition was the latest in a vast programme of land clearing and remediation right across the Teesworks site. Over the past two years, we’ve brought down almost all of Teesworks’ iron and steelmaking structures, including the Sinter Plant, Pulverised Coal Injection Plant, hundreds of metres of conveyors, stock houses and much more.

When we first set out on this journey, we estimated a demolition schedule of around seven years. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, despite the cost-of-living crisis, this has been delivered ahead of time and cost the taxpayer a quarter of what some labour politicians banded around.

The benefit of having joint venture private sector partners on board has unlocked expertise, resources and options that simply wouldn’t have been possible had it been a solely public endeavour – costing the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds in the process.

Thanks to our speed, spades are in the ground on SeAH Wind’s mammoth monopile facility and the first jobs are already being created. Circular Fuels’ renewable gas facility is also earmarked for the site and the South Bank Quay is well under way – another string to our bow as part of the UK’s largest and first operational Freeport.

While we’ll never forget the history of the site, and we’ll continue to honour the pioneers that put Teesside on the map, the future is bright as we make Teesworks a modern, forward-looking hub for the cleaner, healthier and safer industries of tomorrow.