A BUILDING firm is targeting further growth after North-East projects augmented a deal for a market rival.

Wates Group says it will push on with commercial and residential work after seeing annual turnover and profit increase.

The business’ successes come after it took over parts of York-based Shepherd Group, including its Darlington engineering division, which led construction of trainbuilder Hitachi Rail Europe’s £82m factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

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Bosses say its achievements were helped by its residential division overseeing the £13m Tree Top Village retirement complex, on behalf of Newcastle City Council and Your Homes Newcastle, and its Living Space arm, which maintained properties for South Tyneside Homes.

According to its results, such activities helped turnover rise 20.4 per cent on a year ago to £1.53bn at the end of 2016, with pre-tax profit 17 per cent better off at £35.5m.

The company, which employs more than 200 people across the North-East and Yorkshire, also had a forward order book of £3.6bn.

Phil Harrison, managing director for Wates’ construction division in the North and Midlands, reiterated how the North-East had provided fertile ground.

He said: “We have seen significant growth of our business in the North-East market, through which we have developed a new network of local supply chain partners to help boost the local economy and increase investment in training.

“Our resilience and reputation as a trusted contractor in the region has positioned us perfectly to immerse our business in the renewed confidence that has emerged across the North-East.”

Wates’ back catalogue includes work on the Centre for Process Innovation’s £38m National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, in Darlington, which helps firms research and develop potentially lifesaving cures and vaccines, such as cancer treatments and multiple sclerosis therapies, while it is also building Select Property Group’s Strawberry Place student housing in Newcastle.

However, Jo Jamieson, managing director of Wates Residential, said the business’ housing focus will play an increasingly important role in its future.

She added: “The success we have seen in 2016 is a true testament to our leading position in the region’s industry.”

Wates’ deal for Shepherd included its engineering services and facilities management operations, as well as a number of construction contracts.

At the time, Shepherd bosses, who confirmed around 50 compulsory and voluntary redundancies across its construction division, said the agreement would give it more opportunity to focus on its successful York-based Portakabin division.