IT is very difficult to strike a balance between preserving the best and most important pieces of the past and clearing it away those bits of it that no longer work so that we can move on to a new future. We cannot forever live in a museum.

The blast furnace at Redcar is a case in point. It is an iconic structure, dominating the skyline and the beachscape, and being a visible representation of an industry that sustained lives and produced wealth for more than a century-and-a-half.

Part of the problem is that the present is not very good at working out what pieces of the past are worth preserving. Across the region, for example, people want to reinstate lost railways to boost both heritage and transport.

But if County Durham had preserved every one of its coalmines, the place would be smothered in hulking relics.

The county has ensured, though, that most communities have large, and relevant, memorials and artworks in their midst so that there is still a physical and tangible connection to ensure that the future does not lose its roots.

Perhaps a blast furnace is too much to preserve in such a potentially valuable location, but before it goes, Redcar must be certain that it knows how it is going to commemorate its past.