WORK on a multi-million pound facility that supporters hope will create dozens of new businesses and jobs in Darlington has started with an official ground-breaking ceremony.

The Business Growth Hub, part of the town’s fledgling Central Park Enterprise Zone, will be able to house up to 64 new and small businesses at any one time, offering office space and practical support.

Digital enterprise, biologics and advanced engineering will be among the sectors supported at the site, which will be managed by Darlington Borough Council and operated by North East Business Innovation Centre (NE-BIC) Ltd.

Building work on the hub, located at the south side of Central Park, off Yarm Road close to Darlington Railway Station, got underway today (Tuesday) and is expected to take 12 months.

Funding for the £6.6m project came from the European Regional Development Fund, which provided £3.3m, and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

Business hubs similar to the facility planned for Darlington are already operating in North Tyneside and Sunderland.

The Darlington site is expected to support the creation of at least 25 new businesses and 350 new jobs, as well as providing accommodation for dozens of small businesses.

Darlington Borough Council has made economic regeneration and business creation a key staple of its budget plans for the coming years and it is hoped that the hub will kickstart the Central Park project.

Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: “We need to create new jobs and generate income in the form of rates for the town and bring new employers here.

“This facility will also enhance what we’ve already got in Darlington. It’s not just about creating business space, the organisation running the hub will bring in other mechanisms around business support and helping small businesses to grow.

“Hopefully, once some of them are up and running, they’ll be able to go off to bigger premises elsewhere in the town.”

Naz Parkar, interim executive director at the HCA, said: “I am really pleased to see the start of the first commercial development at Central Park and I am confident that this will act as the catalyst for future development.

“Once completed next year, this building should help create over 300 jobs in the town by supporting new businesses as they develop and grow.”