COUNTY Durham has been shortlisted for a manufacturing plant that will create about 1,000 jobs.

Pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline, the UK’s largest drugs firm, last night confirmed Barnard Castle will be one of three sites “considered first” for its new biopharmaceutical plant.

The plant – revealed by The Northern Echo last year – is expected to create hundreds of jobs during its construction and when it is running in about seven years’ time.

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In addition, GlaxoSmith- Kline (GSK) confirmed last night it planned to go ahead with a manufacturing centre of excellence for skin creams and ointments at the existing Barnard Castle factory, which employs about 800 people.

The centre of excellence is aimed at building on GSK’s purchase of US skin specialist Stiefel last year.

GSK is Teesdale’s biggest employer, and the announcement was last night hailed as a vote of confidence in Barnard Castle’s future.

The company said it was planning a £500m investment in manufacturing after the Government confirmed yesterday that it intends to go ahead with “Patent Box” tax reforms announced almost a year ago by the Labour Government.

At that time, it emerged that GSK saw Barnard Castle as a possible site for the £300m biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant, having switched its attention from Asia or the US following the Patent Box announcement, which would give firms a ten per cent reduction in corporation tax on profits from a patent registered and then manufactured in the UK.

The measure is designed to encourage investment in research and development and related manufacturing in the UK.

Announcing a raft of plans for the company, GSK chief executive Andrew Witty indicated the majority of about 1,000 jobs to be created would revolve around the manufacturing plant.

There would also be investment at its facility in Ware, Hertfordshire, to develop a respiratory inhalation device for asthma sufferers.

Mr Witty said: “In the challenging and uncertain economic environment, this is a welcome step by the Government to improve the attractiveness of the UK as a place for the private sector to locate and invest.

“For too long, while great inventions and discoveries have been made in this country, downstream economic activity in development and manufacturing, and associated employment, have been attracted to other countries, which have more favourable corporation tax regimes.

“For GSK, the successful introduction of the Patent Box will enable us to increase investment in communities where we have existing facilities by scaling up manufacturing and building a significant new plant.”

Ian Williams, director of business and industry at regional development agency One North East, said: “It is excellent news that the Barnard Castle plant is in the frontline for construction of the biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant.

“The high-quality reputation of the site within GlaxoSmithKline is further underlined by the announcement of the manufacturing centre of excellence, which represents a real vote of confidence in the site’s future.”

Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman, in whose constituency the site lies, said: “GSK are a valued local employer, and this is precisely the kind of long-term research and investment we should be encouraging.”