A MAJOR office development providing work for North-East businesses could bring hundreds of jobs to a town, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Council bosses say the Department for Education (DfE) building, in Darlington, can be the catalyst for significant job growth.

The four-storey office block, being built by Willmott Dixon next to Darlington Town Hall, will house about 400 civil servants, which could be increased to about 1,000.

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The development, which will see offices shared by the council, has delivered contracts for a number of North-East companies.

Philadelphia Structures, in Peterlee, east Durham, has supplied 350 tonnes of structural steel, with Middlesbrough’s James Paul Services carrying out ceiling and partition work, and Wyn Construction, near Durham City, looking after groundworks.

Stone Technical Services, in Darlington, has sent its lightning protection division to fit earthing systems, with McNally and Thompson, in Sunderland, installing electrics, Newcastle’s Chemplas fitting cladding and roofing, and Leybourne Urwin, in Stanley, County Durham, carrying out mechanical work.

The civil servant roles are being moved from the town’s crumbling Mowden Hall, after a Northern Echo campaign helped keep the jobs in Darlington.

Coun Bill Dixon, Darlington Borough Council leader, said the building can be extended, offering Government officials scope to increase staff levels to potentially 1,000 positions.

He said: “This can be a real catalyst for other people to come here and stay.

“It can be extended, so if any department wants to put a significant part of the business in there, the space is available.

“This is not just about the 400 jobs, which are the jobs of today, it’s the one in the next 20 and 30 years, which could see 1,000 people have those roles.

“This is what the town and its traders would have lost if the jobs had gone elsewhere.”

The development, which is supporting scores of North-East jobs, including four apprenticeships in scaffolding, bricklaying, electrics and quantity surveying, is expected to be operational early next year.

Formerly used as a car park, and previously the site of a Bishop’s palace or manor house, the development site is due to be watertight in weeks, allowing builders to fit internal structures.

Ada Burns, the council’s chief executive, added: “We are really pleased with how smoothly the work has gone.

“It will be the first of its kind in the North-East to operate as a civil service hub.

“This is not just a building project; a significant amount of this is about the benefits for the town centre.

“It puts Darlington very much on the map and makes it a very attractive place.

“This is a great location for the Government to do business and we want more of this in Darlington.”