A MAYOR has denied claims that he is “holding to ransom” the owner of Teesside’s biggest port through a court case.

The South Tees Development Corporation (STDC) has gone to the high court to seek a declaration over legal access routes to PD Port’s land.

PD Ports, which owns Teesport, is on land surrounded by the Teesworks site, which is owned by STDC.

The corporation is seeking a declaration that PD Ports only has one legal access route.

PD Ports disputes that, claiming it has other access routes to the site.

The ports company, which is reportedly for sale with a with a rumoured £1.2bn price tag, claims in its defence document that its “true motive is … to seek to hold the defendant to ransom over its rights of access”, it was reported by the Sunday Telegraph.

“Further the defendant avers that this claim has been brought by the claimants to extract a ransom discount for the purchase of the defendant’s business,” the court papers said.

Speaking to the Northern Echo, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said it was “not the case”, when the claims were put to him.

He said the STDC had gone to court because the ports company had “refused to come to the table.”

He added: “Because they refuse to come to the table we feel we were left with no alternative but to get a clarification from the court.

“What we are not going to do is slow down what is happening at Teeswork just because of an issue PD Ports has.”

He added: “We keep saying we are more than happy to have a discussion.”

It is not known when the high court will issue a ruling on the case.

Mr Houchen said it could take months for a decision to be made by the court.

In April, the Northern Echo reported that it was understood that Mr Houchen is in discussions over a PD Ports takeover deal that would see the vast Teesport gateway site absorbed into the site.

There are talks with Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala about investment.

A Government source told the Telegraph: “One of the projects that we’re working on with Number 10 and Mubadala is the acquisition of PD Ports, and then to bring PD Ports into the wider ownership of Teesworks with various private partners, and then to turn the whole 4,500 acre site into a world-leading fully automated Freeport with another £1-1.5b worth of investment – to turn it into a brand new inward trade port into the UK.

“Bringing all of this together, it would probably make this the most advanced port in the UK with the investment from the Middles East.”

The Northern Echo has contacted PD Ports for comment.