Thousands of jobs at risk after British Steel application for electric arc furnace approved

Thousands of jobs at risk after British Steel application for electric arc furnace approved

British Steel in Scunthorpe

GB News
Anna Riley

By Anna Riley

Published: 30/04/2024

- 21:57

Local residents have expressed fears over the future of British Steel

Councillors have approved planning permission for an electric arc furnace at British Steel in Scunthorpe – risking thousands of jobs and the ability for the UK to make virgin steel.

The decision was made by North Lincolnshire Council in response to British Steel plans to replace its two Scunthorpe coke blast furnaces with electric arc furnaces which can run on zero-carbon electricity and are used to recycle steel scrap into new steel.

Unions have previously warned that the furnace could lead to up to 2,000 losses at the Chinese-owned company in Scunthorpe if the plan proceeded.

The decision by North Lincolnshire Council to grant planning permission follows approval for a similar facility at British Steel's site on Teesside.

British Steel in ScunthorpeBritish Steel in ScunthorpeGB News

Cllr Rob Waltham, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, said: “The council’s planning committee has approved the application for British Steel to build an electric arc furnace on its site in Scunthorpe. The application met local and national planning policies.

“The council, along with local MPs, will continue to work with the Government to protect jobs at the steelworks.

“Work to attract green jobs to the 300 acres of surplus land at the steelworks continues. Master planning is underway to attract high-paid and high-skilled jobs to the area – using new technologies to create green industry.

“There is an opportunity to create something new, attracting innovative technology companies here to Scunthorpe on an underdeveloped site of industrial heritage.

“At the same time as working on this plan, we continue to do all we can to protect jobs on the Scunthorpe site.”

The electric arc furnace could be up and running as early as December 2025 and the blast furnaces will continue running until the electric arc furnace is fully operational.


British Steel president and chief executive, Xijun Cao, said the development of both sites was a “significant step” towards the firm's net-zero targets.

He said: “Our owner, Jingye, is committed to the unprecedented investment decarbonisation requires.

“It is imperative swift and decisive action is taken to ensure a sustainable future for British Steel.”

The company also described the £1.25billion project as the “biggest transformation in more than a century of steelmaking”.

British Steel has been the heartbeat of Scunthorpe for 160 years, creating employment for the local communities, and GB News visited the industrial town in November last year when the plans were first announced.

At the time, one man in Scunthorpe, who worked at British Steel for more than 30 years told GB News: “We make the best steel in the world.

“We always have done – tyre cord, rail. It’s a steel industry, I don’t know how you can go green with the steel industry.”

Scunthrope Steel factory

Xijun Cao, said the development of both sites was a 'significant step' towards the firm's net-zero targets

GB News

Another man added to this and said: “It will be a sad position. Scunthorpe, it’ll be like a museum, it’ll be no good at all.

Speaking to GB News, a woman added: “It’s very difficult, particularly at this time of year, losing jobs, it’s hard. It’s another pile of rubbish on top of what we’ve got in the country at the moment.”

Another woman was critical of the proposed plans and said: “They can spend millions on these people coming from abroad, putting them up in hotels, which cost us, the taxpayer, millions doesn’t it, and yet they can’t save our own people for their own jobs.

“British Steel has been here donkey’s years, you know, now we’re down to the last steelworks here, and that’ll be the end of it then.”

Yet, others disagreed and felt that Scunthorpe can still thrive as a town without the blast furnaces.

“It’s inevitable, the steelworks has got to move forward in its progress, and that’s unfortunately, sadly for jobs, that’s what’s happening,” one man told GB News.

Another added: “I’ve worked in a lot of other industries that have never had a penny out of the government, and this town’s had a lot of money out of the government, a lot of taxpayers’ money, so I’m a bit ambivalent about it.”

Last week a petition containing 30,000 signatures calling for Government support for the steel industry, was also handed to politicians in Scunthorpe as part of a campaign by Unite the Union to secure the future of the sector.

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