BUSINESS and community leaders say everything is being done that can be done to encourage a multi-national company to build a plant in a North-East market town.

The assurance comes as Barnard Castle’s rivals for the GlaxoSmithKline plant offer significant incentives to attract the pharmaceutical company.

The plant would create between 300 and 500 jobs, and bring about £10m a year into the local economy.

As well as Barnard Castle, Glaxo is considering building the facility at Ulverston, in Cumbria, and Montrose and Irvine, in Scotland.

Officials at South Lakeland District Council have revealed plans to hand Glaxo a local development order, which would guarantee planning permission for the new facility, if the company chose its site. The council would also waive the planning fees, which could save between £45,000 to £92,000.

However, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman, who is heading a drive to bring the new plant to Barnard Castle, said she believed the incentives being offered by the Cumbrian council were a “non-issue”.

“I think the costs of getting planning permission is relatively low, given the size of the project and for our Glaxo proposal it’s already land which the company owns.”

The MP said she and others in the region were doing all they could to attract Glaxo, adding: “The strength of our bid lies in the quality of the local workforce and the links with the local universities.”

Mrs Goodman has held discussions with a number of bodies to put forward the case for the North-East site, including Durham County Council, County Durham Development Company, North East Chamber of Commerce and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

Neil Foster, policy and campaigns officer at the Northern TUC, said: “We have unrivalled ambition and determination from commerce, unions, the council and Helen Goodman MP to build on the existing success of Glaxo at Barnard Castle.

“We will grab every opportunity to bring more high quality jobs to the area and work together to help grow the North-East economy during these challenging times.”

Stuart Timmiss, head of planning at the county council, said the authority was working very closely with Glaxo at Barnard Castle to “put forward the best case”

possible for the Teesdale site.

A Glaxo spokesman said officials had been very helpful in assisting the company assess the merits of the County Durham site.