Almost 400 jobs are at risk after Walkers announced plans to close its Peterlee factory.

Workers were told this morning of the company’s intentions as it looks to secure its “long-term sustainable growth”.

PepsiCo, Walkers’ parent company, has said it is looking to switch crisp production from the Stephenson Road site on the North East Industrial Estate to elsewhere in the UK.

Tracey Foster, Peterlee manufacturing director at PepsiCo UK, said crisps currently produced in the town would be manufactured at the company’s facilities elsewhere in the UK.

“Peterlee has been an important site for our business but the changes we are proposing present significant productivity and efficiency savings crucial for ensuring the long-term sustainable growth of our business in the UK,” she added.

“We appreciate this is upsetting news for everyone at the Peterlee site. It is a difficult proposal for us to put forward and we want to make clear that it in no way reflects the performance of our colleagues at Peterlee, who we are grateful to for their hard work and commitment.

“No decisions will be made without first consulting employees and their representatives. We would also like to reassure colleagues that we will be providing on-going support and assistance from this point onwards.”

A spokeswoman for Peterlee Business Park said: “This news is a massive blow for the area and the people employed at the factory. We will do everything we can to support the workers affected by this announcement.”