ArcelorMittal warns that one of its main divisions could quit UK

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ArcelorMittal has warned the UK government that one of its main divisions may be forced to leave the country if an application to redevelop a commercial port in south-east England is approved this week. 

The world’s second-largest steel company said a decision to allow the closure and subsequent redevelopment of a part of Chatham Docks in Kent would have “seismic adverse consequences” for the British economy and multiple strategic industries.

The warning is contained in a letter from ArcelorMittal sent to Michael Gove, the levelling-up secretary, on Saturday and which was first reported by Sky News.

Matthew Brooks, managing director of ArcelorMittal Kent Wire, which supplies steel for construction, urged Gove in the letter to intervene to allow fuller scrutiny of proposals due to be heard by Medway Council this Wednesday. Under the application by Peel Waters, part of Peel Group, the site would be redeveloped for housing and commercial facilities

“Our concern is that Peel’s application to redevelop Chatham Docks is not only wrong for Britain but has proceeded with little scrutiny and a lack of public awareness. Many key stakeholders are therefore unaware of the consequences if it were to proceed,” Brooks wrote in the letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Financial Times.

“This is highly time-sensitive — calling in the application after next Wednesday will not be possible,” said Brooks. 

If the application is allowed to go ahead, Brooks wrote, ArcelorMittal “would regrettably be left with no alternative but to leave Chatham Docks and, more than likely, cease operations in Britain, given the lack of suitable alternative sites”.

The Luxembourg-based steel company, which is chaired by Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, uses the site in Kent to supply reinforcement materials for the construction industry.

In the letter, Brooks said its operations at Chatham Docks are responsible for approximately 30 per cent of Britain’s concrete steel reinforcement, making the site a “strategic asset” for the country’s economy. Its materials have helped to build several high-profile infrastructure projects including Crossrail, HS1 and Heathrow Terminal 5. 

The docks employ almost 800 people, according to the steel group, and generate economic value equivalent to £112,000 per worker which, it argues, is “considerably higher than the Medway average of £63,900”.

ArcelorMittal declined to comment on Sunday. Peel Waters could not be reached for comment. 

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