Dorman Long tower to be destroyed after listed status revoked

Image source, Alastair Smith
Image caption, The Dorman Long tower was built in the 1950s to store coal

An industrial tower is to be demolished after a last-minute conservation listing was quashed by the new culture secretary hours after her appointment.

Plans to destroy the Dorman Long structure on the former Redcar steelworks site were revealed by Redcar and Cleveland Council a week ago.

Historic England then advised it should be granted Grade II-listed status.

Now, in one of her first acts in the role, Nadine Dorries has revoked this saying it did not "merit" listing.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption, Nadine Dorries said the building was "essentially a functional structure"

Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) and the Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen had lodged an appeal against the listed status, alongside the request to the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to intervene.

Mr Houchen said: "I would like to send a message to those that think trying to stop these developments is the right thing to do - our heritage does not lie in a rotting coal bunker, our heritage lies in the people that built this great region.

"It lies in the structures that stand tall across the world, from The Shard, Sydney Harbour Bridge and One World Trade Centre."

He later claimed that, if the Brutalist-style concrete tower had been allowed to remain, it "would have cost the taxpayer in excess of £9m".

The South Tees Development Corporation, which has responsibility for developing the Teesworks site, said the 183ft (56m) tower would be demolished in the early hours of Sunday.

The coal bunker, which was built in the 1950s and could store 5,000 tonnes of fuel, will be razed along with other buildings on the site in a series of controlled explosions between 00:00 and 02:00 BST.

Image source, STDC
Image caption, There are major plans to regenerate the former SSI site

Campaigners against the destruction had argued the tower was a monument to Teesside's industrial past.

TV architect George Clarke said it was "heart-breaking news", adding: "We've lost way too many buildings in the North East that celebrate our incredible industrial past."

He said it was a "unique building and should be saved".

Image caption, Workers were on site on Friday morning, priming the concrete bunker for demolition

Labour's former candidate to be Tees Valley mayor, Jessie Joe Jacobs, accused Ms Dorries of "cultural vandalism".

"The Dorman Long tower is one of UK's best examples of brutalist architecture and a proud symbol of Teesside's industrial heritage. This is just tragic," she wrote.

However, correspondence seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service showed the culture secretary had judged the building "not of sufficient architectural or historic interest to merit listing". 

She ruled that the loss of fabric from the building reduced its architectural interest and made it "essentially a functional structure". 

Image source, Teesside Archives, British Steel Collection
Image caption, A worker walks past the tower in 1956

The tower sits near the South Bank coke oven battery on the former Redcar SSI steelworks site, which closed in 2015 with the loss of thousands of jobs.

The ovens will now make way for a new wind turbine manufacturing facility being built by LM Wind, a subsidiary of GE renewable energy.

A statement from Historic England said: "We recognise the importance of the public benefits that will come from the remediation and planned regeneration of the whole Teesworks site. 

"We also accept, with regret, that demolition of the tower is now likely to proceed but we are keen to continue supporting local partners as works progress."

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