A NORTH Yorkshire business which has grown up in a converted nineteenth century village barn is soon to expand into new facilities.

Elspeth Biltoft founded Rosebud Preserves 15 years ago at her farm at Healey, near Masham, and now produces 20,000 pots of jams, chutneys, jellies and marmalades each month.

The business has become so successful that it has outgrown the main building, where a range of 50 products is made, bottled, labelled and packed by a team of eight women.

Work is under way to turn stone outbuildings adjoining the barn into a large kitchen with a dry storage area, a refrigeration room and an extension for the newest deep freeze facility.

"We started in 1989 with just eight different products and, while the range has grown considerably over the years, we've stayed in the same building," said Mrs Biltoft.

"The kitchen is downstairs and packing and labelling is on the first floor, so we have to hoist trays of filled jars upstairs by means of a static lift, which isn't ideal. The barn floor also drops 24 inches from one end to the other and the steps prevent us from using trolleys. We will have a logical flow system in the new building, with a floor that's all on one level."

The office and administration will move upstairs and there will be a new reception area when the work is completed in September.

The renovation and extension has been made possible with a £30,000 grant from the European Regional Development Fund, secured through North Yorkshire County Council's Economic Development Unit.

The county applies for grants on behalf of businesses and has brokered a partnership with Business Link York and North Yorkshire to ensure aid is delivered effectively.

"The grant has made a big difference to the growth of our expansion plans and, without it, some of the renovation would have had to be placed on hold," said Mrs Biltoft.

Coun Carl Les, the county council executive member for business and community services, added: "Rosebud Preserves is one of the best examples we have of a rural business that has gone on to enjoy national and international success.

"The county council is delighted to have been able to play its part in helping Mrs Biltoft and her team expand the business and to take it into a new era while remaining faithful to its North Yorkshire roots."

As well as supplying to about 200 stockists in the UK, including Liberty of London and the Black Sheep Brewery at Masham, Rosebud Preserves exports 25pc of its products to the USA, where they are sold in high-quality food shops like Dean and Deluca in New York.