THE Highways Agency has announced £1.8m to make improvements to a motorway junction ahead of Integra 61, a multi-million pound development scheme in County Durham.

The agency said it would be spending the cash on junction 61 of the A1(M) at Bowburn to enable the 200-acre development which could create up to 4,000 jobs.

It is hoped work on the site will start this year, with proposals including large industrial and distribution units, a 70-bedroom hotel, a residential care home, restaurants, a surgery, retail units and up to 270 new homes.

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Highways England said the £1.8m would be spent on traffic lights on the roundabout at the junction and widening roads off it to improve capacity, as well as making improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Highways Agency will be working with Durham County Council on detailed plans for the work, which will not take place for a couple of years.

Councillor Neil Foster, the authority’s economic regeneration boss, said: “The funding award is great news and will address what has been raised as a problematic junction by local residents.

“It will also allow the removal of potentially significant barriers to the new jobs and housing promised as part of the Integra 61 development at Bowburn.”

David Cullingford, project development manager, said: "The announcement by Highways England is excellent news for the North East region as a whole and brings our long-awaited development at Bowburn, known as Integra 61, one step closer to reality.

"Viability has always been one of the biggest obstacles in unlocking the site’s potential due to the extent of on and off-site infrastructure improvements required to serve this prime 200-acre site, so this funding is therefore very welcome.

"It is a hugely challenging scheme and we will continue to work in partnership with the council to bring the scheme forward as soon as possible. We hope to start on site later this year.”