A NORTH-EAST builder has praised its diversification after strengthening its presence in the construction market.

Esh Group, in Bowburn, near Durham City, says it has a sound base for growth as it looks to take advantage of increasing confidence in the housing market.

The company, which directly employs nearly 1,000 people, earlier this month revealed plans to create 70 jobs and create 150 apprenticeships over the next three years.

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In April, bosses also agreed a deal to buy Cumbrian-based Border Construction, with the aim of targeting work across the North and Scotland, expanding operations and creating jobs.

Brian Manning, Esh Group chief executive, told The Northern Echo the firm is determined to strengthen its construction division, which is re-emerging from a five-year slump in demand throughout the industry.

He said: “For us, things are picking up and what we have done is diversified.

“Before the recession, we were in the North-East, but now we are further afield.

“We have cushioned ourselves.

“The housing market was the first into the recession and it looks like it is the first one out.

“The Help to Buy scheme has been vital to that area and that sector’s growth can benefit others going forward.”

Mr Manning said its deal to buy Border, which employs about 140 staff and has worked on construction projects in the education, health and social housing sectors, was extremely significant to its future.

However, he said the company was now focused on growing its order book and workforce, which includes its apprenticeship drive, rather than looking towards further acquisitions.

“The deal gives us a much stronger presence in Cumbria and the Borders and is good news for our other operational areas in the North-East and in Yorkshire.

“With Border, we are expanding, and for the next two or three years we will work with what we have got because we have the strategy in place.

“Apprentices are the life-blood to a company and its next generation.

“We have an ageing workforce and it’s vital we bring people through.”

Esh Group also has offices in Cramlington, Northumberland, Leeds and Kendal.