THIS summer has been an unusual one for everyone, but it hasn’t stopped me making progress across Darlington, Teesside and Hartlepool as we continue our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Nowhere is this more evident than at Teesside Airport, where, as other airports across the country are struggling, we are going from strength to strength with a newly daily connection to Heathrow – its first flight to the UK’s biggest airport in more than a decade.

Tickets are now on sale for the route, which will allow local people to be better connected to the capital than ever before and will enable them to fly into London for business or to connect with more than 180 locations in 84 countries across the world.

Whenever I’ve revealed a new route people have said to me: “That’s great – but what about Heathrow?” Well, I can now say we have flights to one of our most-requested destinations. We’ve also expanded our Aberdeen and Belfast routes as the airport continues to safely reintroduce more of its services.

We are also wasting no time with the redevelopment of the Teesworks site with a host of new contracts, and I want businesses across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to bid for the work so we can create and support good quality local jobs for local people.

More than 200 jobs have already been created on site, but this is just the beginning. Over the next 12 months, 19 separate demolitions will take place and 18 individual contracts will go out for tender. In total, 775 jobs will be created through these investments, which will total £393m.

As part of this, we have unveiled a £150m programme of demolition work across the Teesworks site – including the Redcar Blast Furnace and Coke Ovens – which could create up to 300 jobs.

I recognise the demolition of these structures will be a bittersweet moment for many people in Redcar, but these decaying structures are becoming increasingly dangerous, and I want to move Teesside forward into a bright future that respects our heritage but also creates jobs.

That is why I am offering local people the chance to safely explore the site one last time before the demolition work begins, and I have been blown away by the demand, with almost 2,000 people signed up, and places filling up within hours.

The Redcar steelworks is such a huge part of our history and even after it is gone, it is something we should be telling our children and grandchildren about. That is why I want to hear from people in Redcar on how we should keep the memories of it alive. Anyone can submit their ideas at

This month, we’ve also expanded our on-demand Tees Flex bus service to new areas across Darlington and the wider Tees Valley. The fact that more than 4,000 people have used the buses in the last four weeks just goes to show how vital it is we help those in our rural communities.

We’ve added new destinations like schools, colleges, stations and hospitals so local people have more opportunities to get around our region quickly, cheaply and easily.

There’s so much more to come in the weeks and months ahead, and I will continue to ensure our comeback in Darlington, Hartlepool and Teesside is stronger than ever before.

  • Ben Houchen is the directly elected Conservative mayor of the Tees Valley