Transformation of an industrial ‘blot on the landscape’ in South Tyneside into an environmental haven is complete.
Monkton Cokeworks in Hebburn was built in 1936 and had a history of contamination for decades.
The pitch-black smoke which once billowed from the cokeworks’ chimneys was an ominous representation of an industrial heritage now gone.
Many residents blamed pollutants from the coking works for their ill health and it eventually closed in 1990 and was demolished two years later.
Once the land was cleaned of decades of contaminants, the Monkton Business Park later emerged on the site, attracting a wide variety of environmentally-friendly companies.
A 10-hectare part of the area was also turned into Monkton Community Woodland, delivering significant benefits to the local community.
‘It’s an asset to the community’Coun John McCabe
Back in 2000, 30,000 trees were planted there and the area is now beginning to look like a “proper woodland”, said Alene Lee, green and healthy places manager with Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, which manages the project.
Now the national land management charity, the Land Trust, which owns the woodland, has named it the area its ‘Educational Site of the Year’.
Last year it attracted 214 youngsters to explore plants, trees and the great outdoors.
Coun John McCabe, Labour representative for Hebburn South, said: “There is no denying that the cokeworks offered a lot of danger from carcinogenic substances and the transformation in the years since has been amazing.
“There are more than 2,000 based there now, with everyone from Siemens, to the North East Ambulance Service to chartered surveyors.
He added: “The woodland site is well-used by cyclists and walkers and is an asset to the community.”