NEARLY 300 North-East jobs could be created at a £10m retail park.
Former marker trader Andrew Ward has unveiled plans to create a major Durham City business hub.
Mr Ward, managing director of corporate clothing maker Workwear Express, says the proposed Ward Trade Park will include a car showroom, fast food outlet and several trade units.
Mr Ward has bought the former Kerry Foods factory, in Dragonville, near Durham City, to start the venture, and hopes construction on the development will be finished next summer.
He added the move will allow Workwear Express to move its headquarters from Belmont Industrial Estate to the new Remmys Lane development, allowing it to increase its workforce from 90 to 120 and lift turnover to £10m in the next 18 months.
Workwear Express customises clothing and carries out embroidery work, designing uniforms for North-East baker Greggs and telecoms firm Three.
Mr Ward, who launched the company in 1990, said: “Seldom does the opportunity arise to acquire such a prominent site on the outskirts of Durham within such close proximity to major retailers such as Tesco, B&Q and Boots.
“It not only provides us with the space and opportunity for our company to grow, but also allows me to feed my passion for property and develop what will hopefully become a vibrant business hub in the area.”
Mr Ward's acquisition of Kerry Foods' former North-East base was supported by chartered surveyor Bradley Hall, which has offices in Durham City and Newcastle.
Peter Bartley, Bradley Hall director, said: “It’s nice to see a local company committing to the area and purchasing such prominent opportunities with a view to growing their existing business.
“The site is arguably one of the most desirable locations in Durham which has been proven by the amount of enquiries that I have already taken from potential occupiers and other purchasers.
“Andrew’s plans are bold and ambitious and this £10m development, when it is complete, will be a key part of the regeneration of County Durham.”
Kerry Foods' factory closed in 2012 with the loss of about 350 jobs.
Last year, Workwear Express created 20 new jobs after securing a contract with reality TV show Geordie Shore and has provided personalised lab coats and aprons for the programme's promotional shots.
It has also supplied clothing to X Factor staff and Celebrity Big Brother contestants.