MORE than 200 North-East jobs will be created at a £7m trade park, enterprise bosses have revealed.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELep) says it has agreed funding to help build the Portobello Trade Park next to the A1 (M) at Birtley, near Chester-le-Street.

Bosses say the project, close to Portobello Industrial Estate, will sit on more than six acres of land and provide space for 15 light industrial units.

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Work will start this month and is scheduled to finish in May next year.

When fully open, the site is expected to accommodate about 240 jobs.

NELep says it is providing a £982,000 loan from the North East Investment Fund to developers Ravensworth Property Developments.

Ravensworth, near Durham City, has also received £2.75m from the European Regional Development Fund to complete the £7m funding package.

Paul Woolston, NELep chairman said: “The prime location of the park next to the A1(M) is an ideal location for a new business park.

“It’s also a very visual reminder to thousands of daily commuters about the benefits of development through the North East Investment Fund and working with NELep.

“Ravensworth has a strong track record in delivering projects.

“This scheme ticks many of the boxes in our priorities and objectives, including developing skills and employment, supporting enterprise and private sector business growth, and strengthening transport and connectivity.”

Geoff Clark, Ravensworth’s development manager, praised NELep’s support, revealing the firm has already received more than 60 speculative enquiries from prospective tenants, including trade counter operators and engineering warehouse users.

He added: “This is a very attractive location for businesses that need to be close to the motorway.

“It’s highly-visible and easily accessible, and the high level of enquiries prior to construction commencing is very encouraging.

“The bank financing position is still very tight for speculative schemes in the region.

“The NELep is filling the gap between available bank finance and public sector funding, without which speculative schemes for small and medium-sized businesses would not get funded.

“Ours is a perfect scheme for them; in and out, and the money repaid quickly.”