CONSTRUCTION of a new supermarket that will create 250 jobs is due to start in the New Year.

Work on the foundations of a 25,000 sq ft Morrisons store on Durham Road in Birtley, near Chester-le-Street, is already underway.

A former council depot has been demolished and water and gas pipes have been moved.

The contractor, Watkin Jones and Sons, are now doing preparation work on the first part of the build for the new store.

Early next year, attention is set to switch to the demolition of a former Somerfield store on the site, which has been empty for four years.

Graham Adams, from developers, Morbaine, said: “We have been working on this project for nearly three years so to see the first signs of construction is brilliant.

“We know that local people are very excited by the scheme and the benefits that it will bring to Birtley town centre.”

The town has been without a major supermarket since Somerfield closed its doors in 2009.

Since then, Gateshead Council has been trying to attract another high-profile retailer to the town.

A council spokesman said the new store is intended to ‘enhance and complement’ the existing retail outlets in the town centre.

Alongside the supermarket, new two-storey retail units will also be built.

The council said public consultations showed very high levels of support for the scheme.

Leader of Gateshead Council, Councillor Mick Henry, said: “This is a very important development for Birtley and we know how much local people wanted to see it happen.

“It will bring new visitors to the town and we hope that it can be a boost for local businesses and a catalyst for further regeneration.”

The Birtley redevelopment is one of several retail-led developments taking place in the borough, including projects in Blaydon, Felling and the major Trinity Square development in Gateshead Centre, which surrounds a giant Tesco store.

The council has said the developments are bringing hundreds of millions of pounds of investment to the region and creating thousands of new jobs.