A DEVELOPER behind plans for an £80m County Durham industrial hub has hailed the initial impact of a change in focus.

St Modwen says “2018 promises to be a year of growth” following a shift to accelerate commercial work and grow its presence in the housebuilding sector.

Bosses yesterday (Tuesday, February 6) added the moves will protect it from Brexit worries, highlighting their decision to steer away from retail and smaller, less-efficient assets.

The company is known for the Darlington Faverdale 58 project it says has the potential to provide 60-acres of space for distribution and warehousing companies, which would sit alongside existing operators such as Argos, Aldi and cycle parts company Zyro Fisher.

St Modwen also previously bought Billingham town centre in a £14.25m deal, with the promise of overhauling shops, leisure and business sites.

Referring to its results, which showed statutory pre-tax profit increased from £66.9m to £70.3m in the year to November 30, Mark Allan, chief executive, said: “2017 has been a positive year for us.

“We started to shift our portfolio towards sectors with better structural growth characteristics, and this will continue in 2018 and beyond. Across the course of 2017 we increased commercial development activity, completing 1.4 million sq ft of new space with a completed value of £216m. The external environment is uncertain, but we believe our strategy is well suited to such an environment.”

St Modwen’s Billingham endeavour previously saw it sell an area to Aldi, which has created a store on the site of the former Billingham Arms Hotel, extend leases with tenants such as retailer M&Co and welcome Italian eatery D’uccellos.