WORK on a £4 million sausage factory expansion which will also see a visitor centre dubbed 'Sausage World' created looks set to start this summer, after being approved by planners.

Hambleton District Council’s planning committee passed the scheme at Heck’s food production facility off the A1 at Kirklington, near Bedale, after hearing its economic, social and environmental benefits justified the use of the site outside the authority’s agreed development limits.

Members were told the business had expanded significantly in recent years and employed 120 staff, and it is understood the firm’s plan will create a further 60 jobs.

The meeting heard a recent change in the business had been the expansion into the production and sale of vegetarian and vegan products, which were currently being produced in starter units at Leeming Bar Industrial Estate.

The proposed extension would allow the meat based production to relocate into the larger new facility within the extension with the non-meat based production moving from Leeming Bar into the existing Kirklington facility.

Members were told while the existing factory has floorspace of 2,140sq m, Heck aimed to extend that by 3,226sq m for food production lines, storage, packaging and two additional loading bays and staff facilities such as changing rooms, canteen and meeting rooms.

In addition, the plans will see a new building for visitor groups, alongside an ambition to open an 80-cover restaurant and shop.

Members heard national planning policy required councils to support the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas and to promote the development and diversification of agricultural and other land-based rural business.

Andrew Keeble, co-founder of Heck Food, said building work on the scheme was scheduled to start in August despite uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

He said of the firm’s 120 staff, 85 were from Europe and it had been proposed EU migrants will have to earn at least £30,000 before they are allowed to come to Britain after Brexit.

Nevertheless, the family-run firm is very optimistic after last year saw it increase listings across all national retailers and launch with online retailers such as Ocado and Amazon fresh.

Mr Keeble added he expected the visitor attraction to prove popular, drawing in “loads of school trips”.

Mr Keeble said: “It’s amazing how many people have knocked on the door and asked to have a look around. If you have never seen a sausage machine work then it’s worth it. We have a machine that can produce 1,300 sausages a minute. It’s like a Gatling gun.”