THE expansion of a North-East car parts maker has been driven forward after a construction firm won work to develop its plant.

Gestamp Tallent, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, is improving its factory after receiving £3.75m backing from the Government's Regional Growth Fund.

Bosses say the cash will allow the chassis maker to create about 320 new jobs and buy robot welding assembly lines to increase production.

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Howard Russell, based in Cramlington, Northumberland, says the work is part of £8.5m contracts for the first quarter of 2014, setting the firm up for its best year since 1997.

It will also carry out work on converting a former Pickford's warehouse in Team Valley, Gateshead, for pump maker Flowserve.

The contracts have allowed the company to take on five workers, including two quantity surveyors, a project manager, a site manager and an apprentice.

Barry Wilkinson, contracts manager, said: “We anticipated increasing staffing levels by 40 per cent and we are delighted to have exceeded that and taken on our first apprentice in five years.

“As the construction market continues to improve, we are now returning to pre-recession turnover and staffing levels in what is proving to be a very exciting year.”

Howard Russell previously worked on a £2.4m resource centre and construction department at Darlington College.