BRINGING steelmaking back to Teesside is the bold pledge being made by Ben Houchen as he seeks re-election as Tees Valley Mayor this May.

In a speech to an audience of businessmen, MPs, councillors and cabinet ministers - including Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry - Mayor Houchen pledged to ‘right the injustice’ of an industry left to decline on Teesside.

Addressing the crowd at AV Dawson in Middlesbrough, Mayor Houchen said that the Tees region needs to ‘take back control’ and shape its own destiny.

He added: “We can’t rely on civil servants or national Governments. We can do this, and I will make it my mission to make Teesside a world leader in steelmaking again. I can already hear the naysayers, the doom mongers and the pessimists.

“I can hear the same defeatist attitude from my opponents. Why do you want to do this?

"You’re just saying it to get votes. It can’t be done. You know what, they said the same thing about the airport and I delivered. They can say what they like.

“This is my promise to the people of the Tees Valley. If elected, I will bring steelmaking back to Teesside and I’ll restore our rightful place as a global leader in the steel industry.”

Speaking to The Northern Echo after his speech, Mayor Houchen said that he was more confident about his steelmaking pledge than he was when he said in 2017 he would bring Teesside Airport back to life - something which he has since achieved.

He said: "We've looked at the opportunities in the steel market, we have been working with some really serious international experts in the steel industry identifying gaps in the market, identifying the types of steel we can make and also the feasibility of being able to bring back large scale steelmaking to Teesside.

"Those plans have come together over the last nine to 12-months, which is why we are able to stand here today to make this pledge."

He added: "It is still early days, but it can be done."

Mayor Houchen said it would not be a 'quick fix'  but he believed it could be achieved within the next mayoral term of office.

Peter Gibson, Conservative MP for Darlington, said he was confident in Mayor Houchen’s ability to deliver on his pledge, describing him as the ‘Ronseal politician, because he does exactly what he says on the tin’.

He added: “We need to get away from this story in the Tees Valley that we can’t do these things, we can’t achieve, we can’t strike out, we can’t be successful - because we can.”

Mr Gibson said that the revival of the steel industry on Teesside would directly benefit manufacturing and engineering business in Darlington who would have access to locally-sourced steel.

He added: “We can’t look at a town in isolation.

“We are part of a wider region and the engineering that takes place, the petrochemical industry, the port, all of those things working hand-in-hand and supporting each other, will be hugely beneficial for all of the towns in the Tees Valley, including Darlington.”

Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said that Mayor Houchen had an 'impressive record' of delivering on his promises and backed him to succeed in bringing steel back to Teesside.

Meanwhile, Richmondshire MP and chief secretary to the treasury, Rishi Sunak, said he was 'excited' about what could be achieved in the region, not just with Mayor Houchen, but with the recently elected crop of Conservative MPs.

He added: "People are hungry for change."

Mayor Houchen promised to announce more of his election manifesto in the coming weeks.