PLANS to close a North-East crisp factory which once made a household name of a County Durham town were revealed last night.

The Northern Echo understands that 103 permanent jobs are at risk at the KP Snacks premises in Consett, where Phileas Fogg crisps are made.

Shocked staff were told yesterday that the company is planning to expand its operation in Billingham, on Teesside, and close the factory on Medomsley Road, Consett.

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A factory in Corby, Northamptonshire is also under threat.

Nick Bunker, chief executive officer of KP Snacks, last night confirmed the planned closures.

He said: “We have today informed our colleagues at our Consett and Corby factories that, regrettably, in order to develop a sustainable and competitive manufacturing operation, we are proposing to close the sites and to transfer the production to other sites in our network.

“We operate in an increasingly competitive market and need to focus on our cost base in order to develop a sustainable business."

Phileas Fogg crisps were launched in the 1980s by ex-miner Roger McKechnie. A television advertising campaign focused on Medomsley Road, Consett as being the birthplace of the brand.

The business was sold in 1993 and Phileas Fogg crisps later became part of KP Snacks.

Mr Bunker said: "Now KP Snacks and Intersnack UK have integrated to form a larger UK business, we have the opportunity to expand our pellet business in the most cost-efficient manner at our larger Teesside site.

"In addition, after many years of working hard to try and grow our Consett volume, and despite the growth of Phileas Fogg, the under-utilisation of the site has created an unsustainable situation."

But he added: "These are only proposals at this stage and are subject to the appropriate consultation with our colleagues. No final decisions have yet been made.”