THE skyline of a North-East town is changing as work continues on a £6.6m office block councillors hope will create and sustain hundreds of jobs.

Darlington Borough Council says building work on the town's Business Growth Hub is ahead of schedule.

When complete, the building will house up to 64 new and small businesses on the Central Park enterprise zone, close to the railway station.

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The council says the development will create and support more than 350 jobs over a 15-year period.

Funding for the project has come from the European Regional Development Fund (£3.3m) and the Homes and Communities Agency (£3m).

The works include a 3,200sq m office block divided up into individual offices with a communal entrance and lobby area.

Building contractor Willmott Dixon has a target of using 70 per cent local labour throughout the project.

The business growth hub forms part of the wider regeneration of Central Park.

It is hoped the facility will kick-start enterprise development on the site and set the scene for a new commercial and business centre close to the railway station and the education hub of Darlington College and Teesside University.

Construction work is expected to be completed by next spring.

Once open, the hub will be operated by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) Ltd, which has a track record in managing and developing so-called 'incubation' sites.

Council leader Bill Dixon said: "I am delighted to see work progressing well and that, in a matter of months, we will see new businesses taking advantage of the facilities and begin growing their business and creating new jobs in Darlington."

David Howell, director of operations for the BIC, added: "We’re thrilled to be involved in this exciting project and we’re committed to developing a centre that will not only accommodate businesses but provide a real hub for enterprise activity in the area.

"The BIC celebrates its 20th anniversary this month and during this time we have helped to create more than 6,000 jobs across the North-East.

"This project will enable us to build upon this work and support the development of many more."