CONSTRUCTION company M&M Plasline (MMP) is a step closer to building flat-pack housing in factories following the acquisition of a steel frame manufacturer.

Thirty-five jobs will be created in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, following the acquisition.

MMP, based in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, hopes to create steel frames and walls of buildings in its new factory and headquarters at Newton Aycliffe, to make the construction process less dependent on good weather.

With the multi-million-pound acquisition of Metek Building Systems, of Bristol, MMP is the only North-East company able to provide a complete construction service from manufacture and supply to installation, in one of the newest areas of the construction industry.

Metek has a turnover of £6m and will become part of MMP, which is moving to its seven-acre site later this month.

Metek's manufacturing machinery is being moved from Bristol to the premises, which will give MMP space to meet the group's future expansion.

MMP's off-site construction process includes building walls and roofs in the factory and attaching them to steel frames on-site.

The process means that each part can be quality-tested in the factory, and walls are pre-insulated, making them twice as warm as traditional brick houses.

Metek's founder and a pioneer of light steel framing research, Dr Alan Rogan, has been retained by MMP to oversee and expand the use of the technology.

Jeff Fryer, managing director of MMP, said: "The acquisition of Metek is a major stage in our five-year expansion plan, and we see this new division as being a key driver of the MMP business from here on.

"As the only company in the North-East able to offer the full light steel frame technology package, from components, frames, panels and modules, we are in the unique position to set ourselves up as the leading force in off-site construction in the region."

He said that with Metek's reputation for helping to build schools and hospitals throughout the UK, MMP could win more national orders.

Dr Rogan said: "Pre-fabrication can reduce the typical build-time of a house from 18 weeks down to ten weeks.

"It also provides a safer working environment, and requires fewer skills than traditional brick-and-mortar building, so has the potential to alleviate the skills shortage in the industry, which would be an achievement in itself."