THE cost of keeping the blast furnace on a former steelwork site will be in excess of £35m, a report has found.

The report on the cost of retaining Redcar's blast furnace, published last night, says it would cost £35.2m over 10 years.

It follows a campaign, launched to save the structure, which has called for more transparency around the issue.

Last night, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the report showed keeping the blast furnace would stop the creation of 827 jobs and damage investment in the site.

But Labour's mayoral candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs, who is among those campaigning to keep it, said it showed Mr Houchen "didn't get it".

Mr Houchen said: "This independent report which has been produced for the Teesworks Heritage Taskforce confirms what I have always feared – keeping the blast furnace would result in astronomical costs, and most importantly, would harm our plans to create local jobs for local people on the site.

"A development that will cost jobs on this site is the last thing the communities across Redcar want, especially at this time as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The findings clearly reveal the exact costs and challenges we face in keeping this extremely dangerous structure which is cordoned off to stop injuries occurring due to its unsafe conditions which will only further deteriorate with time."

The report was produced by the Tees Valley Combined Authority and includes a study by Stockton-based Primetals Technologies, which built the furnace, and concluded it was in an "extremely dangerous condition".

Ms Jacobs said: "Sadly this misleading report has been based on keeping the whole blast furnace site and turning into a visitor centre that the public can access. This is not the only way to use the furnace to bring tourism.

"Estimates I have been given for simply not demolishing it is, state it is actually cheaper than the cost of demolition. Leading figures in culture, heritage and even the chemical industry have all stated the blast furnace as a living sculpture similar to projects around the world would create an international buzz about Redcar, putting us in the map for tourism and investment."

She added: "This whole report confirms my worst fears that the mayor does not understand the basics in creating jobs for everyone and driving forward both a tourist and industrial economy for Redcar."

Mr Houchen added: "I absolutely agree that we should find ways to recognise and celebrate our heritage, but an approach that would cost 827 jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment is not the answer.

“I am pleased the taskforce has received this report today and will ultimately take it on board in their findings. I’m also pleased the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can now see for themselves the scale of the challenges and costs involved with the blast furnace, but by making the right decisions now in the long term interests of everyone, we can make it a site people can be proud of again.”

Teesworks Heritage Taskforce chairman and Redcar MP Jacob Young said: “This report and the accompanying economic analysis will help to guide the taskforce’s thinking on the blast furnace and the wider issue of the heritage of iron and steelmaking in Teesside.

“The taskforce has unanimously agreed that it is clear that the impact on local jobs that retaining the blast furnace would cause means that we are very unlikely to recommend the preservation of this particular structure - however the taskforce is still looking at options surrounding the Dorman Long Tower.

“I know many people have strong opinions on this issue, and if money and jobs were no issue I’m sure there would be strong arguments to retain it, but in the current circumstances it would be irresponsible not to put our future economic prospects first.

“Many people have already inputted to the website consultation process, and the responses so far have had some great feedback about the things people want to see.

“We’ll be embarking on the next phase of our community consultation soon and we’re looking forward to hearing more great ideas on how to mark this hugely significant part of our heritage.

“More broadly this report and the decision of the taskforce, now allows us to look beyond the blast furnace, at other exciting plans and find the right way to commemorate the industry that built our region - and the world.”