A multi-millionaire investor has sealed a development deal for 500 acres of land near Teesside Airport.

Global investment company Flacks Group, run by Michael Flacks - who was placed 239th in the Sunday Times Rich List with a net worth of £708m - has bought land at Urlay Nook, Eaglescliffe.

The US-based group has entered the agreement with Elementis for the 500-acre former Chromium manufacturing site, which ceased production in 2009, and surrounds the headquarters of the North East Air Ambulance.

In an exclusive interview from his Miami base, Michael Flacks told The Northern Echo that there could be up to £2billion invested in the site over the next ten years.

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He told us: "There's no romantic story for this. Everything we do is because we buy tired and broken processes - that's our mantra. So we got told about a year ago, that Elementis had closed down this site years ago and were looking for a solution. So I went there and studied everything around.

"You will have to bear with me, there's money in green today. I'm not a registered charity. I'm doing this because there's money in wind and battery storage."

The Flacks Group specialises in the acquisition and operational turnaround of medium-sized businesses in complex situations 'where a rapid solution is of paramount importance'.

Michael was born in Manchester and started the company in 1983. and is known for complex and challenging deals that have unlocked billions of dollars. Now he has big plans for the Eaglescliffe site.

"It's got to be mixed-use, you can't just put one category on there," he said.

"So it's not going to be just warehousing and it's not going to be truck parking or just residential. Let's work with the city - the banks aren't stupid, they are going to say 'look, this is what's needed'.

"If Amazon wants a big distribution site or a 'last mile' site or whatever it may be and the authorities are good with it, let's do it."

The Northern Echo: The former Elementis siteThe former Elementis site (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

He's a big fan of the attention the region is getting at the moment, and says the whole country is an investment hotspot, adding: "I don't think Britain can go through a worse stage, even if there's a change of government and Labour comes in. It's not going to affect money coming from outside. There's nothing wrong with what's here, so I'm betting big on the UK. 

"I knew the North East and what's going on at Teesside, because actually about two years ago I looked at Cleveland Bridge, but was told I was never going to get it because all local developers want is just the land where the building is and to develop it for warehousing and the thing will die, so forget it. I thought it was actually a good business for making bridges."

He is clearly a man very comfortable with his business ethos - spot neglected opportunities all around the world that have frightened off other investors, pump in the millions and make a very healthy return.

"I'm happy to stick money into this site. I'm happy to work with some very significant energy people who rate the area highly, and we'll create jobs and hopefully have a very positive spin out of it. We looked to other situations near there -  what we call hopeless situations - but we didn't fancy any of them. We like this one.

"The area generally we feel is on an uptake and positive.

The Northern Echo: The site with the NEAA base in the backgroundThe site with the NEAA base in the background (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

"From one side, this site is in the middle of nowhere, but it was next to the airport, near good highways and it's very windy around there, so it lends itself to wind so I have spoken to some experts and they said the best use is to turn it into something green, either for wind or solar or perhaps battery storage.

"Nobody wants to see it empty for another 25 years, and I'm sure the local authority would like to get some tax revenues on it. The important thing is that we've got it now, it's under contract and we're just waiting for a couple of environmental approvals, which normally just take a few months, but all I am about is win, win.

"We've been around the block a few years, so I'm not exactly new to this."

One of the issues that may have put off previous interest was the perception that there was still substantial contamination of the land from the Elementis Chromium works, but Michael is not fazed: "It's not the whole site, it's just a small part. There's a lot of it that has already been remediated.

"With any of these situations, whether it's USA, Germany or England, it makes no difference. You've got to listen to your local government and your local planners to find out what you can do with it?. It's been under the environmental authorities for 20-odd years and they know what they're doing. I've had all the reports and the site is actually in very good condition.

"We've got a social responsibility here. The kids are playing football across the road so how bad can it be if the city is allowing the kids to play football? There's enough to do on that site without moving the kids from playing football or moving the air ambulance. We're not coming into town to annoy anybody."