Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson has hailed a deal to bring the former Redcar steelworks into public hands “better than anything he thought possible”.

An agreement, understood to be £1, was agreed for all the former SSI steelworks after years of wrangling.

Mr Gibson, vice-chairman of the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), has been involved in negotiations to strike a deal with three Thai banks and SSI for the land and assets

The Middlesbrough owner admitted he was “absolutely delighted” with the agreement – adding it was “very important to the Tees Valley”.

The Bulkhaul boss added: “This allows us to press on with the development of that site. It’s a far better deal than I thought was possible and a lot of credit has to go to the mayor Ben Houchen.”

Mr Gibson also hailed the work of Sir Alan Cockshaw and former Sabic boss Paul Booth.

The STDC masterplan is to create 20,000 jobs on a vast 2,300 acre stretch by attracting big firms to manufacture once again on land south of the Tees.

Efforts to get a carbon capture and storage plant on a 200 acre site are continuing with talks expected in the coming weeks.

When it came to the eleventh hour deal, Mr Gibson said it was a “huge relief”.

And he also praised Lord Michael Heseltine – the man tasked with turning around the former Steelworks site in 2016 – for the work he had done behind the scenes.

Mr Gibson added: “Lord Heseltine has been there for us when needed – he has been terrific.

“He’s been there with us since day one, going backwards and forwards for Teesside. He’s in his mid-80s but my goodness he works hard.”

STDC bosses want investors to come onto the land in phases.

But the corporation faces a huge clean up operation in the next decade – with more than 5,000 tonnes of dangerous material on the land and deteriorating former steelworks to demolish.

Evidence offered up for hearings to bring the land into public hands showed tensions between the STDC and Thai banks had been fraught.

Thai bank representatives accused Mr Gibson of threatening to throw papers in a heated meeting last year – claims which were strongly denied by the STDC.

But attention now turns to the future of the land – with the STDC having control of almost all of the 2,300 acres of developable land South Tees.

Mr Gibson said the deal would allow things to start happening on the ground.

He added: “We worked hard to keep it as safe as possible – now we’ve got to take it forward and we couldn’t get to that next stage until the acquisition.

“We’ve been extremely busy getting movement on the site with some good solid enquiries.

“The importance of this deal cannot be understated.”

Mr Gibson’s own role in the process has been praised by Mayor Houchen, who said he has been a “rock”.

Mr Houchen said: “There is a huge team behind this who have made this happen, right the way through to Steve Gibson, who is deputy chair who has been a huge rock and support to me in giving me advice in helping to get this deal over the line.”

Cllr Mary Lanigan, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Council, also welcomed the new deal.

The independent leader said: “This is a crucial step towards realising the huge, global potential at what is one of the largest industrial sites in Europe.

“Now we not only have a highly skilled workforce, fantastic industrial port and excellent infrastructure but have secured the land we needed at what is a world class industrial site.

“This issue has taken a long time to resolve and there has been some tough negotiations but now we and our partners can press ahead with the job of attracting thousands of high quality jobs to our area and prosperity for generations to come.

“We’ve already had interest from businesses around the world and we will be asking the government to pursue the plan of making the Tees a port free from the usual taxes and customs to ensure our borough and the wider Tees Valley is even more attractive to industry.”