THE £62m expansion of one of the UK's premier science parks has taken a significant step towards completion.

The Phase 3 development of the North East Technology Park (NETPark) at Sedgefield reached a major milestone as the last piece of steelwork was fitted at the site.

Representatives from Durham County Council and construction partner Kier, as well as the North East Combined Authority, Ryder Architecture, Clear Futures, gathered on site to mark the occasion.

The Phase 3 expansion will provide 11 new units and an initial seven hectares of space rising to 16 for laboratories, offices, production, and storage.

It builds on the success already achieved by the park, which is home to 40 companies and 700 employees.

The expansion has the potential to create another 1,250 skilled jobs, plus 2,200 in the supply chain, and to be worth £625m to the local economy over the next ten years.

A further 44 hectares around the site have been designated as development land, paving the way for a fourth and potential further phases of NETPark and the site ultimately hosting 3,000 to 4,000 high-value jobs.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, leader of Durham County Council, said: "We are pleased to have reached this key milestone, which signifies the Phase 3 expansion of NETPark taking shape.

"It really is an exciting time for the park given the significant investment we have made, allowing Phase 3 of the site to come out of the ground, and its designation as a Growth Site in the new Investment Zone for the region.

"The entire phase of development unlocks huge potential for the county, with over 230,000sq ft of new lab and scale-up production space, creating high-value jobs and widening supply chains.

"It will provide more and better jobs and benefit the local and regional economy by enabling growth and attracting and retaining leading businesses in the science, technology and engineering sectors."

Construction of Phase 3 is being delivered by Kier.

As part of its appointment, the company is delivering social value back into the local economy by supporting the council's County Durham Pound initiative through training opportunities, work experience, employment initiatives and local spend.

Daniel Doherty, regional director at Kier Construction North & Scotland, said: "We are incredibly proud to have reached this significant milestone at NETPark.

"This is an exciting project for Kier which represents the ongoing importance of the North-East as an area of growth for us, as well as our commitment to delivering outstanding projects in the science and technology sectors."

An initial £5.1m Local Growth Fund grant awarded by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership allowed the necessary highway infrastructure to be put in place to open up the land for development.

Building on this investment, the North East Combined Authority has awarded a further £10.7m, alongside £3.9m of North East LEP funds from its North East Investment Fund and Getting Building Fund, to support the creation of high-quality units for research and production activities.