A DEAL to safeguard the jobs of a major employer in an unemployment blackspot was announced yesterday.

Stairlift manufacturer Bison Bede has announced an expansion plan which will see it open new premises in Consett.

The company, which already employs 200 staff at three sites scattered throughout Derwentside, confirmed that an undisclosed number of new jobs are likely at the plant when production of several new products gets under way in the coming months.

Bison Bede, which operates from three Derwentside factories at Castleside, Hounsgill and Greencroft, is to move to a factory site at the Number One Industrial Estate on Medomsley Road in the town.

Last year, the company had an estimated turnover of £22m. Staff are due to move to the new premises in the run up to Christmas.

Managing director Kees Van Wanrooij said expansion plans and recent growth has led to the move.

He said: "Everyone involved in the company is looking forward to the move.

"It will provide Bison Bede with new manufacturing, research and development and customer services facilities, which will improve the success of the business internally and externally."

He added: "It is considered this move will add to our efficiency and will be better internally for the staff."

A spokesman for the company added that "vast expansion plans" are in the pipeline.

He said: "It is all very positive for the future.

"There will be no new jobs initially, but I can say we have a lot new products planned and consequently there will be more jobs because of that. "

The company's new buildings have been adapted for Bison Bede since they were vacated by one of Derwentside's other major employers, International Cuisine, which relocated to the Hounsgill area of Consett.

Bison Bede was first established in 1983 and has been bought out twice since then. Latest owners are Domus. There will be two manufacturing units at the new site and an area for the company's national sales team.

The cost of the work to convert the Medomsley Road site was undisclosed by the firm.