AN HISTORIC foundry business is planning expansion after buying the former Kenmore plant in County Durham.

Bonds, the family owned North-East foundry group, confirmed yesterday that it had bought the 10 acre site in Crook, from owners Parker Hannifin.

The site has stood empty since the fridge maker ended its operations there in January 2009, leading to almost 180 job losses.

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Bonds, which runs Bonds Foundry, in County Durham and Bonds Precision Castings, in Cumbria, said it was a "good fit" as the company continues to expand with new orders.

Its present facilities at Tow Law and Alston will continue to operate as normal, with no effect on employee numbers at either.

But with size constraints at both sites the Crook plant on the Beechburn Industrial Estate will be used for overspill work, new business and some storage.

The announcement on the new facility comes in the week Bonds was presented with its Queen's Award for International Trade, after increasing overseas earnings from £1m to £5.7m in the past three years.

The firm's fortunes have been transformed since County Durham-born businessman Paul Duncan bought the 153-year-old Tow Law foundry from administration in 2000.

Although it is too early to put a figure on new employment at the Crook site Mr Duncan said he fully expected new jobs to be created.

Mr Duncan said: "We are a Weardale business and Crook is a natural place for us to be.

"There will be employment created on the site. We are not quoting figures but we have 171 staff at present and generally speaking year on year we get more people in and that process will continue.

"It is an exciting development for ourselves, we are constantly looking towards the future and we have been trying to find a site in the area for a while now.

"The acquisition of this site will enable Bonds to continue to grow and will complement the successful businesses at Tow Law and Alston."

Bonds Foundry, employing 102 and with a turnover of more than £9m, is one of a few steel founders in the UK with capacity for steel castings up to 12 tonnes, and serves sectors such as oil and gas, marine and offshore and the construction industry.

Bonds Precision, employing 69 and with a turnover approaching £4m, produces high-specification, small steel castings by the Shaw Process, a specialist ceramic process which it was instrumental in inventing.

Last year the firm was placed 12th in a Sunday Times list of the UK's 100 fastest growing export companies and it trades with 18 countries.