Historic tower just handed listed status to be demolished this weekend

·3 min read

A piece of industrial heritage, which was only granted listed building status last week, is to be demolished on Sunday after new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries overturned the decision.

The Dorman Long Tower, a 1955 brutalist concrete coal bunker, had been given Grade-II status by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and was considered a Teesside landmark.

But the Tory Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen appealed to the body and to the Secretary of State, claiming it was in a poor state of repair and it would hold up major redevelopment plans of the former Redcar steelworks.

Cabinet reshuffle
Nadine Dorries (Victoria Jones/PA)

Earlier on Friday, he announced his appeal had been successful, and his office later announced the tower was one of three buildings that would be flattened in the early hours of Sunday.

Only seven days earlier, DCMS had granted the tower Grade II-Listed status following a recommendation from Historic England – a decision Mr Houchen said was a mistake.

He said if the appeal had not been successful, it would have cost more than £9 million to maintain the structure, only for it to eventually be brought down for safety reasons due to its poor state.

Mr Houchen said: “Approving our appeal was the first decision of the new Secretary of State, this goes to show just how important the successful redevelopment of the Redcar former steelworks site is to everyone in Government.

“This reverses the decision on its Grade II-listing made after an application by local activists that, if allowed to stand, would have cost the taxpayer in excess of £9 million.

“That’s money that would not be spent on the creation of jobs, the NHS, transport and other important services.

“Worse than that, it would have cost thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment that we were – and still are – trying to bring to the site where Dorman Long Tower currently stands.”

Vince Smith, an independent on Redcar and Cleveland Council, voiced anger about the loss of the “symbolic” piece of industrial heritage.

Initial plans for the huge redevelopment of the steelworks site featured the tower to reflect its past, he said.

He added that the mayor is wrong to suggest those who are in favour of saving the tower are against redevelopment and jobs.

“The two are not mutually exclusive, and what he says flies in the face of their own original plans,” Mr Smith said.

Sue Jeffrey, a Labour member of the same council, said demolishing the tower shows a lack of imagination.

She criticised the mayor for referring to a confidential report about the tower which has not been made public.

“It may be there are major issues with the tower, that should be a conversation they have with local people,” she said.

Historic England said in a statement: “Following the Grade II listing last week of Dorman Long Tower at Teesside’s former Redcar steelworks, the owners requested an urgent review of the listing.

“We were able to visit the site and after further assessment we confirmed our advice that the tower merits consideration for listing at Grade II.

“However, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which takes the decision on all listing cases, has decided to remove its listed status based on the updated information on the survival of fabric and on architectural significance within the review.

“Our site visit highlighted the prior loss of much of the historic coking plant, as well as the likely costs and ongoing safety risks of keeping the surviving tower.

“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.”

Local residents were warned to expect explosions lasting around 10 seconds between midnight and 2am on Sunday and the mayor’s office, responsible for the Teesworks redevelopment site, apologised for any inconvenience.

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