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Demolition of giant Redcar blast furnace changes skyline in North East

The 365ft (111m) high blast furnace at the former Redcar steelworks has been demolished – changing one of the best known skylines in the North East of England.

The removal of the huge 1970s-built structure on Wednesday morning is the latest stage of the site clearance since the works closed in 2015 with the loss of thousands of jobs.

Crowds gathered to watch the furnace crumble, against the backdrop of the North Sea, in an explosion heard as far away as Hartlepool, around 23 miles away.

The structure, the same height as St Paul’s Cathedral and the second highest blast furnace in Europe, dominated the skyline in Redcar since opening in 1979.

It was flattened as part of an ongoing programme to clear the steelworks site, which Teesside’s Tory mayor Ben Houchen has described as “one of the biggest, most complex and condensed demolition projects ever to take place in the UK”.

The casting houses, dust catcher and charge conveyors also came down on Wednesday, following a similarly spectacular demolition of the 213ft (65m) tall Basic Oxygen Steelmaking plant in October.

The four giant gas stoves which heated the furnace are set to be demolished next month.

Mr Houchen said the clearance of the site, which used 175kg of explosives, is a vital part of regeneration plans.

Redcar Blast Furnace demolition
Composite image of the demolition (Danny Lawson/PA)

He said it is now earmarked for the Net Zero Teesside project, which will be the UK’s first fully integrated gas-fired power and carbon capture, utilisation and storage project and aims to create thousands of jobs.

Mr Houchen said: “Our skyline has changed forever with the demolition of the Redcar Blast Furnace and we can never forget the important role it played in Teesside’s proud industrial history.

“Now, with almost all of the major iron and steelmaking structures down, a new skyline will emerge on the Teesworks site as construction ramps up on new investments like Net Zero Teesside and SeAH Wind’s offshore wind monopile facility.

“We can never understate how much the steelworks site has defined Teesside’s history and shaped our communities, but I’ve always been clear we need to look to the future to create new jobs on this site that will employ generations of local people, just as the steelworks once did. We will never forget our past – but from it we are building a new future.”

Redcar Blast Furnace demolition
The furnace collapses in a cloud of dust (Danny Lawson/PA)

The blast furnace was first mothballed in 2010 but restarted two years later when SSI UK took over.

It was shut down for a final time in 2015 when SSI entered liquidation – with the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Redcar’s Tory MP Jacob Young said: “I always said today would be a day of mixed emotions. But it is precisely because the blast furnace stood for so long as a symbol of our historic economic strength that it should make way for a new era of progress.

“And it’s that progress that we need to concentrate on now.”