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Row over Redcar steelworks pits industrial town against Thai government

By Marianne Curphey

Public inquiry will decide whether Thai-owned site can be acquired by Tees valley via a compulsory purchase order

A row between the Thai government and the northern UK town of Redcar will intensify this week when a public inquiry will decide whether a former steelworks can be bought and redeveloped.

Ben Houchen, the Conservative mayor of Tees Valley, wants to force three Thai banks, including one owned by the Thai government, to sell part of the plot on the Redcar site for redevelopment.

For five years, since the steel plant closed in 2015, the future of the industrial site has been in doubt. The mayor wants to redevelop the site into a new manufacturing centre, but the former steelworks has been lying in limbo while its future is decided. The Thai banks have so far failed to agree to his proposals.

A 12-day public inquiry begins tomorrow to try to clarify what action can be taken. The inquiry aims to decide whether the government can grant the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), which wants to buy part of the land, a compulsory purchase order (CPO) that would allow it to acquire a section of the site, despite the banks’ objections.

Three Thai banks hold a charge over the assets on the site – Tisco, the Siam Commercial Bank and the Krung Thai bank. The latter is owned by the Thai government. All three disagree with the plans and object to the mayor’s attempts to buy and redevelop the land. Much of the argument is based on the value of the land, which the banks claim is worth far more than STDC has offered to pay.

Redcar, in the north-east of England, has a strong industrial heritage and the site could be used to generate new jobs for the area, the mayor says.

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FURTHER READING: Trump hits Brazil and Argentina with new steel and aluminium tariffs

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