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The Teesworks regeneration body chaired by Lord Ben Houchen has lost a High Court bid to block the region’s Brookfield-owned port, the UK’s fifth largest, from any access rights to its land.
The South Tees Development Corporation had sued PD Teesport in 2021 seeking a ruling that the port operator had no rights of access across the former steelworks it was regenerating next to the port in the north east of England.
Following a bitterly contested trial in the High Court late last year, a judgment handed down on Monday by Mr Justice Rajah upheld PDT’s access claims across three parts of the site.
PDT, owned by Canadian asset manager Brookfield, had accused the corporation of seeking to reduce the value of its business through the action, a claim the STDC denied. This was not ruled upon in court.
The port operator had sought to claim 15 categories of access rights to the Teesworks regeneration site, the UK’s largest brownfield site, earlier in the case, but dropped most of them. Costs have yet to be awarded.
The ruling follows the release of an independent report last week that criticised the governance of the STDC, which was set up to regenerate the former SSI site at Redcar, known as Teesworks.
The STDC had been joined in its action by Teesworks Ltd, the public-private joint venture set up to develop the steel site.
Jerry Hopkinson, executive chair of PDT, said the outcome was a “vindication”.
“We will now move on, with this unnecessary distraction behind us, and look to the future,” he said, adding that Teesport has had a key role in the area’s industrial development since the 19th Century.
STDC noted that PDT had dropped most of its original access claims.
“The judgment now provides clarity on the rights of all respective parties going forward,” they added. “We will now consider this judgment along with our legal advisers.”
STDC chair and Tees Valley mayor Houchen had at one point hoped to buy the port in order to incorporate it into the Teesside freeport.
Brookfield put PDT up for sale in 2021 but later withdrew the business from the market. Brookfield declined to comment on the court ruling.
Teesworks Ltd, which is 90 per cent owned by local developers and 10 per cent by the STDC, said it welcomed the judgment.
They said PDT had originally been claiming access rights “across vast areas of land on the Teesworks estate, yet no documentation was ever provided”.
“We are now giving careful consideration to all matters contained within the judgment and any further action which may result,” added STDC.