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On 29 April 2020, Inspector Philip Ware, acting under powers delegated to him by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government through s. 14D of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981, confirmed the South Tees Development Corporation (Land at the former Redcar Steel Works, Redcar) Compulsory Purchase Order 2019 (“the Order”), without modification.

The decision followed a three-week public inquiry held earlier this year.

The Order was made on 10 April 2019 under s. 207 of the Localism Act 2011 by the South Tees Development Corporation (“STDC”), the first Mayoral Development Corporation established outside of London.

STDC’s objective is to secure the regeneration of an area covering approximately 4,500 acres to the south of the River Tees in the Borough of Redcar and Cleveland. The area has historically been the home to heavy industry, primarily iron and steel making, the port and logistics handling, and chemicals.

In October 2015, the iron and steel making came to an end with the liquidation of the landowner SSI, forcing the closures of the Redcar iron and coke-making complex and the Lackenby steel-making plant. This marked the end of nearly 170 years of iron and steelmaking in the locality and the loss of some 2,000 jobs directly, 1,000 contractors, and a further 1,000 jobs indirectly.

An independent report by Lord Heseltine in 2016 described the area as “a scene of desolation, a memory of industrial activity now gone”.

STDC was established in August 2017 to address the recognised need for regeneration. The Order, covering 1,752 acres, is necessary for the assembly of land to facilitate comprehensive regeneration led by STDC, pursuant to a Master Plan that has been developed since mid-2017. The realisation of the Master Plan is expected to deliver 20,000 new jobs and a world-class industrial business park.

STDC is backed by significant central government funding, and the scheme is expected to generate an income of nearly £2 billion up to 2050.

In confirming the Order, the Inspector stated:

“25. In many CPO cases a key consideration is whether there is any need for regeneration. However in this case there is no suggestion from any objector that the land and buildings should remain as they are. It is true that there are suggestions by some objectors of a more piecemeal approach (for example the objection by RBS/Thai Banks – as discussed below) or that particular operations should remain on the land (for example Tarmac). However no alternative detailed and comprehensive approach to the problems of the area has been put forward.

26.  Referring back to the quoted description of the area in the Heseltine Report, albeit a couple of years ago, it is hard to envisage an area more in need of regeneration. Leaving aside the question of the appropriate agency and mechanisms to undertake the regeneration, it is clear that very significant long term investment is needed, and that this should be undertaken on the basis of a clear and comprehensive strategy.

120.  The scheme underpinning the CPO is wholly in accordance with the Local Plan, which is the key part of the statutory development plan, and the SPD. Both these documents, and the Master Plan, seek decontamination and regeneration of the wider area including the Order Lands with a focus on advanced manufacturing and technology and port related activities. It is also worth noting that the SPD specifically resists piecemeal development and recognises the role of compulsory acquisition.

121.  The regeneration of the Order Lands will contribute to sustainable development and accord with the national objective of building a strong, responsive and competitive economy. It would also create an environment which has the potential to support the wellbeing of the community. The decontamination and reuse of the land would contribute to the protection and enhancement of the natural and built environment. The scheme which underpins the CPO is in line with national planning policy.

122. For the reasons set out above, especially related to the condition of the area and its recent history, there needs to be a properly phased programme of demolition, preparation and infrastructure provision across the Order Lands. This has to reflect the future needs of investors and end users.

123.  There is no realistic prospect of policy compliance and the achievement of the benefits without compulsory purchase. Adopted policy cautions against piecemeal development and it is clear that individual landowners do not have the resources or ability to deliver the necessary regeneration.

124.  The scheme underpinning the CPO has been the subject of consultation, adoption and updating and is capable of delivery within a reasonable time scale. Allied to this, not all the funding could reasonably be expected to be in place at this stage, and there is a clear model for future funding within a reasonable time scale.

125.  There are no planning or other impediments, aside from land ownership, likely to hinder the progress of the scheme.

126.  It is clear that STDC has made considerable efforts to acquire the Order Lands by agreement, and that the CPO has progressed alongside separate negotiations. This is evidenced by the number of Remaining Objectors with whom an agreement, leading to the withdrawal of the relevant objection, has been achieved during the run up to and the course of the Inquiry. Many of the outstanding objections, which are not sufficient to lead to the CPO being rejected or amended, seem to have the potential for resolution even at this stage.

127.  That said, the CPO would clearly interfere with the Human Rights of those who still have an interest in the land. In particular this relates to the provisions of Article 1 of the First Protocol to the EHCR which provides that no one should be deprived of possessions except in the public interest. The public interest in this case has been set out above and it is considered that there is a fair balance between the public interest and the private rights which will be affected by the order. The implementation of the scheme underlying the CPO justifies the interference with the human rights of those with an interest in the land.

129.  Overall it is concluded that there is a compelling case in the public interest for the CPO to be confirmed, that there are no impediments to the regeneration of the Order Lands, and that there is a reasonable prospect of the scheme being delivered within a reasonable time scale.”

The Inspector’s decision letter is available here.

David Elvin QC and Matthew Fraser, instructed by Toni Weston at Gowling WLG, acted for STDC, the acquiring authority.

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