POLITICIANS have described the closure of a chemical plant on Teesside as "a blow" to the region after chemicals firm INEOS made the announcement just days before Christmas.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham both made the comments as INEOS revealed it would close its Seal Sands acrylonite plant, near Stockton, in the new year.

Earlier this year, it was revealed around 150 jobs at the site were under threat as the chemicals firms announced plans to consult on the closure of the plant. 

In October, the company blamed the jobs threat on 'decades of significant under-investment' by previous owners, and a requirement to invest more than £200m into bringing the site up to environmental standards.

The Northern Echo:

But today, Jon Howard, site director at Seal Sands said the firm had spent almost two months working with its employees and Unions to "consider ways to avoid closure", but it now had no other option placing 145 jobs at risk.

He said: "Following an extended consultation with employees at Seal Sands is with great regret that I now have to announce the closure of Acrylonitrile plant at the site.  

"Over the last 59 days we have worked closely with employees and Unions to consider ways to avoid closure but without a safe, long term economically viable alternative, this has not been possible.

“Over the past 10 years, INEOS has invested almost £200m into the plant to try to counter decades of significant under investment.

"Every penny of profit since we acquired the site has been invested back into the plant. To stand still would require another £200m.

"Our staff have worked exceptionally hard and have made significant improvements but it has been impossible to play catch-up.”

The Northern Echo:

But taking to social media, Labour MP Alex Cunningham for Stockton North, said: "Sad to receive note confirming the Ineos chemical plant in Seal Sands will close with the lost of many jobs.

"What a blow before Christmas though it was clear from the outset that the company planned closure. Shame they don't invest in the North-East instead of Middle East.

"Another month's jobless figures out and again there are more people unemployed than a year ago in my area."

Meanwhile, the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said his team stood ready to assist the Department of Work and Pensions and local partners to ensure INEOS employees had access to new opportunities.

The Northern Echo:

He told The Northern Echo: "To do this at any time of year would be a blow to our region, and devastating for the employees at the Acrylonitrile plant and their families.

"To do it just before Christmas adds insult to injury.

"I’m not surprised by Jim Ratcliffe and the callous way in which he has dealt with this plant and his staff who will suffer as a result.

"My team stands ready to assist the DWP and local partners to make sure Ineos employees have access to new opportunities in our area.”

Details of potential redundancies have not been publicly released but INEOS said it was now working hard to "fully-support" its 145 employees affected by the decision.