Sheerness steel plant to reopen after four years

Thamesteel workers
Image caption Hundreds of workers were made redundant when Thamesteel closed

A steel plant which closed more than four years ago with the loss of hundreds of jobs is to reopen and start production next year.

Steel manufacturer Liberty House said the site at Sheerness in Kent would restart production of bar and rod products by mid-2017.

It said up to 100 workers would be employed at the former Thamesteel plant on the Isle of Sheppey.

Thamesteel, which employed 400 people, went into administration in 2012.

"We hope some of the former workers will consider coming back but either way we intend to invest in building skills for the future," said VB Garg, chief executive of Liberty Steel Newport.

The company said the move broadens the range of steel products it can supply to the UK steel market from its works in South Wales and Dalzell in Scotland.

"We are particularly excited about the prospect of restarting the Sheerness rolling mills which were closed by the previous owner four years ago," said Mr Garg.

"Although we originally thought we would move the mills elsewhere, we now believe it will be better to reopen the existing site."

The company will recruit an initial workforce of 60 people, rising to 100 as market conditions allow.

It said it had agreed a long-term lease with site owner Peel Ports.

Image caption Community union said it wanted to bring back good quality jobs to the steelworks

Swale Borough Council granted planning permission for the demolition of some buildings on the site on Thursday night.

Mr Garg said that land would be used by Peel Ports to store imported cars.

Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, said he was surprised to hear the news.

"It's hopeful news for Sheerness if it goes ahead, but the people who lost their jobs have been told on so many occasions it was reopening in some shape or form and they have been let down each time," he said.

Community union, which represented the Thamesteel workers, said the decision by Liberty House was encouraging.

"We will be working closely with Liberty House to bring back the good quality steel jobs that were lost," said general secretary Roy Ruckhuss.

"It is vital that local and national government provide all necessary support in helping bring this steelworks back to life."

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