Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Marske Sands, do we want a healthy marine ecology or a free Enterprise Zone?

“In many respects the most notable feature of any integrated iron and steel works, whether operational or non-operational, a blast furnace is an impressive example of industrial architecture at its best. Located at the northern end of the development, at the boundary between the North Industrial Zone and Coastal Community Zone Redcar Blast Furnace is ideally situated for preservation as a major landmark and visitor attraction. The proposals would see the removal of ancillary shed structures, and when combined with the wider demolition programme for development purposes, would reveal the sheer scale and complexity of the Blast Furnace. The Coastal Community Zone of South Gare and Coatham Sands would offer some stunning vistas of the Blast Furnace, which would be augmented by the introduction of night-time illumination – as has been successfully achieved on similar projects around the world. The Blast Furnace would be integrated as a visitor attraction into the Teesdale Way, and, subject to financial viability, the plans could be developed to transform this structure into an accessible feature with viewing galleries at different levels and a visitor centre.”

That quote is from the South Tees Regeneration Master Plan of October 2017, forwarded by the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen.

On Wednesday next week, 23rd November, that “impressive example of industrial architecture at its best“, the Redcar Blast Furnace, will be demolished.

Many have fought to protect this structure, notably the Save Our Steel Heritage campaign, but this icon of our skyline, will be gone forever.

Other examples of our industrial heritage, the Dorman Long Tower and the Coke Ovens Battery have already been demolished. In the “Master Plan” sold to the public, they were to be “a cornerstone of the landscape and open spaces strategy“.

When I took this photo of Marske, with the tower of the old St Germain’s church on the left standing as a navigational aid for local skippers, the silouette of the Redcar Blast Furnace could just be made out through the coastal mist, but sadly it’s not obvious on the image, so here’s a photo of the complex I took earlier this year.

A view of Redcar Blast Furnace taken in April 2022.
Redcar Blast Furnace, April 2022.

All industrial heritage structures are somewhat controversial. Some see them as ugly and dirty. Others understand their importance and beauty.

The “Master Plan” has served its purpose, its assurances can be ignored.  It now forms part of the Government’s policy of ‘Freeports‘ with their promises of jobs and prosperity.

But the whole project seemed to have been mismanged, immersed in corruption and backhanders, “ … a case study in the loss of democratic control over industrial Britain and the unaccountable enrichment of a select few…1‘The Regeneration Game’. Private Eye. Issue 1581. 9th september 2022..

The latest controversy is over the thousands and thousands of dead crabs and lobsters that started washing up on the North East coasts from September last year, including along this stretch of sands at Marske. The dead marine life was waist deep in some places including seals and porpoises.

Defra says the cause was just an algae bloom, purely natural, nothing to see. Fishermen, whose livelihoods have been decimated, have evidence from many universities that suggest the crabs were poisoned by a chemical called Pyridine, once a waste product of the heavy industries which were traditionally located on the Tees. This and other toxins remain ever present in large concentrations deep within the sediments of the river bed2Mazza, Julia. 2022. ‘Dead Crustaceans on North East Coast: The next Chapter’, North East Bylines <https://northeastbylines.co.uk/dead-crustaceans-on-north-east-coast-the-next-chapter/> [accessed 15 November 2022]. Furthermore, the incident of a surge in dead marine life seems to have coincided with a change in the dredging procedure.

Dredging is necessary to maintain the depth of the river channel to the port.

It has been mooted that the explosive demolition of the Dorman Long Tower and the coke ovens could have disturbed the riverbed3Ibid.. The dates tally.

The creation of a Freeport will entail much deeper dredging to accomodate larger ships. A worrying situation for which the Government by their very furtiveness, do not exude much confidence that they have the best interests of the local community at large.





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