Ravenscraig Is Being Revamped But Is It In The Public’s Best Wishes?

The Ravenscraig Steelworks was built in 1957 by Colvilles LTD, in order to meet the demand for strip steel after the second world war. In order to make the material, iron was taken from blast furnace into steel furnaces, which would turn the iron into ingots to allow the metal to be moulded into strips. The plant first came under threat of closure in 1985 due to a lack of funding to maintain the equipment.

The British Steel Cooperation introduced a £10 million strategy however, it was not nearly enough money to cover the cost of upgrades as well as the cost of importing coke to fuel the furnaces. The plant needed £90 million by 2000 if it wanted to maintain the cost of refurbishing. The fight to keep the site open gained national attention as the 1985 Labour leader Neil Kinnock met with the MP for Motherwell to help join the fight to keep the plant open. In 1985 the European Commission charted that the attempted closure of the plant was driven by Conservative party politics and their desire for further privatisations within UK industries, instead of the steel industry’s profits.

In 1989 trade unions, civic leaders and politicians all met in the Civic Centre in Motherwell to discuss the future of the steel industry, the potential privatisation of the British Steel Cooperation and what could be done to save it, Dr Jeremy Bray, one of the representatives at the meeting warned that if the plant was to be privatised it would only survive for 6 years then it would be closed, meaning privatisation was only a temporary solution.

Following these talks in 1989, a new £700,000 steelworks opened at Ravenscraig, creating 400 jobs as well as six new career roles, which gave people hope that the site would be saved. However, this faith was short lived as later in the year British Steel made the decision to close the site. Opposers of the closure set out in hopes of finding someone that would buy the plant as overturning the decision seemed impossible. After years of protests, lobbying, council meetings and debates the Ravenscraig site switched off its furnaces for the last time in 1992 and the gas holders and cooling towers were demolished in 1996, signifying the final fatal blow Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives delivered to decimate the last fragile remains of North Lanarkshire’s steel industry and its major employer.

North Lanarkshire Council, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, has been able to secure £61.1million funding from the Glasgow City Region Cabinet on top of the £65.3million North Lanarkshire Council had planned to invest into the Ravenscraig Infrastructure Access project. The money is being invested into creating new transport links in order to connect the M8 to Ravenscraig and to connect the south of Motherwell to the M74. The proposals include: a new dual carriageway from the Ravenscraig Sport Centre and Motherwell, a new roundabout and new traffic signals.

The next phase of the project is yet to begin, as the council is going to submit an application in order to obtain planning permission to begin construction and organise a public consultation in hopes that construction can begin in 2022 and 2023. So far, the site has a large housing scheme, a sports centre, a college, a restaurant and a hotel.  The regeneration plan as a whole is estimated to cost £35billion over the next 10 years. Council chief executive Des Murray said: “Ravenscraig is an important part of our long-term plan as it will bring new homes, schools, businesses, jobs and leisure facilities over the next 25 years.”

North Lanarkshire Council and Central Scotland Green Network Trust have created plans to open new woodland areas and a ‘green corridor’ which will connect Craigneuk and Carfin. These areas are set to include picnic benches and areas as well as management works. The management works are to be put in place to maintain the lands safety so future generations can enjoy the new woodland areas, which has been questioned over the last two decades.

Reports in 2004 from the Corby Steelworks site, which was also being redeveloped in similar ways as Ravenscraig, found that toxic chemicals left in the ground had been released during construction. An increase was then seen in babies born with birth defects which raised concern amongst Motherwell citizens and councillors involved in the Corby work over the Ravenscraig’s safety. Although the Corby was a much larger site and they had large toxic waste facilities in place to protect the area there was still a spike in cancer cases found in residents of the site.

 The first direct cause of concern for the Ravenscraig  was raised in 2007 by the Wishaw Press which revealed that before its completion, there was large amounts of land contamination on the building site which posed a significant risk to both public and workers’ health.

Ravenscraig Limited set to neutralise these fears by spending £650,000 in 2017 to dig a further 17 water boreholes in the ground in order to monitor water quality. Overall, 28 of these boreholes have been tested and there has been little change seen between 1997 and 2017.

100 local residents were polled in October 2020 and it was found that 73 of those residents had concerns over the lands safety due to North Lanarkshire not publishing the full safety documents and due to the initial reports of the site being uninhabitable for 100 years due to toxicity in the ground.

Despite these fears North Lanarkshire Council intend on making the Ravenscraig thepotential new shopping district within Motherwell, build new primary schools, merge Taylor, Our Ladies and Bothwell Park high school together and build them a singular campus on the site; potentially move the home of Motherwell FC- Fir Park stadium- to Ravenscraig and construct a new train station and bus lanes. Former Motherwell MP Frank Roy said: “This really is a historic decision for our area. The lights of the Ravenscraig are about to once again be re-ignited as a beacon for Lanarkshire.”

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