A COUNCIL leader has received assurances from a major online retailer about the quality of jobs and working conditions at its new North-East factory.

Work is well underway on the new 94-acre site known as Symmetry Park, next to Lingfield Point in Darlington, which is expected to be occupied by Amazon later this year.

Darlington Borough Council has previously claimed the site could create thousands of jobs, but last month, Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said she still had "questions to ask" about the working conditions at Amazon.

But council leader Stephen Harker said the company has told him the new site will be a "whole different employment experience".

He also said it would have been "foolish" for him to turn down the opportunity to bring the online retail giant to Darlington.

Cllr Harker said: "It is today’s reality, online shopping is here to stay and the infrastructure that sits around that will be here to stay, and therefore if that company is interested in locating here, I'm not going to say no.

"It is hugely beneficial for them and for us for them to come here. Does it have an impact on the town centre? That particular development doesn't, because if it hadn’t come here it would have gone somewhere else.

"It will bring employment and that’s what we need in the town, it would be foolish to turn them down."

Earlier this month, outline planning permission was submitted for the next phase of the business park, which could include restaurants, cafes, a pub, hotel, drive thru takeaways and a petrol station.

A number of proposals have been submitted as part of the application, which include splitting the remaining space into separate units, or constructing one individual warehouse which will be around 630,000 sq ft.

Cllr Harker added: "A lot is said about their employment issue, and clearly it is a concern. I am a Labour politician, things about employment law, rights and how companies treat workers are a big concern to me.

"I understand this will be a much more modern facility, and a lot of it will be about robotics, Actually a lot of the jobs that are going to be there are going to be quite different from some of the other facilities they have in other places.

"That is not to say you can’t have poor employment practice, but the message we were getting is will be a whole different employment opportunity to what people know about the company now.

"Where we can, we want to be involved and help."

Speaking last month, Ms Chapman said: "I welcome this development in the planning process and the further details of the ongoing works at Symmetry Park, these plans are good news for Darlington.

“That being said, I still have questions to ask about the road infrastructure around the site and the working conditions at Amazon and I’ll be pursuing those going forward.”