A COUNTY Durham firm involved in the manufacture of coronavirus vaccines claimed it could have been forced out of the area if it was denied permission to expand its current base.

Teesdale-based plastics firm Technimark hopes to take advantage of growing demand and create up to 40 jobs, with plans to demolish and rebuild its current warehouse and toolroom.

But the proposed scheme had prompted concerns, from some families who live near the company’s Middleton-in-Teesdale home, over the impact on the landscape and nearby households.

But these were overruled by members of Durham County Council, who accepted that the application would safeguard roles at what is believed to be the village’s biggest single employer.

Stephen Shaw, the company’s managing director, said: “Our business has grown double digits for several years and is now out of space.

“Our owners have committed to investing £1.3 million in this expansion, work which will be carried out by local businesses, and we also expect a further £1 million investment in equipment and infrastructure.”

He added: “We think this is the best and most viable opportunity to keep our business local and without the ability to grow the current site there is a possible risk the business would need to relocate to larger premises outside the dale.”

Mr Shaw was speaking at Tuesday's (Tuesday, March 30) meeting of the county council’s Area Planning Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

Responding to criticism of the plans, he also told the panel that an alternative site nearby had been considered, but was ruled out due to the time which would be needed to develop it properly.

Councillors heard that more than 40 letters of objection had been submitted over the plans, claiming the current buildings ‘already spoil the character of the village’ and that expansion could be an ‘eyesore’ creating ‘further disharmony’.

But the application was backed by Middleton-in-Teesdale and Newbiggin Parish Council, which also requested measures to mitigate any ‘adverse effects’ on nearby homes.

Barnard Castle East councillor George Richardson said it ticked "all the right boxes" and that a refusal would be difficult to defend if such a decision was appealed.

The committee voted unanimously to approved the plans.