Hundreds of jobs at risk at Billingham's Mitsubishi chemical plant

The Mitsubishi Chemical UK Cassel site at Billingham
The site has operated under various owners since 1930 and was acquired by Mitsubishi in 2009

More than 200 jobs are at risk after a chemical company announced plans to end production on Teesside.

Mitsubishi Chemical UK said it had begun a consultation with workers at its plant in Billingham.

It added "rapidly escalating" gas prices, a downturn in the European economy caused by inflation and weaker demand meant UK manufacturing was no longer viable.

A final decision is expected to be made in January.

The firm said production of methacrylates, which are used in acrylic products and require large quantities of gas, initially stopped in January as part of a planned overhaul and had remained halted since September because of worsening economic factors.

In a statement, it said it had explored options included a temporary mothballing of the site but had concluded it was not viable.

Malcolm Kidd, vice-president of the firm's methacrylates business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, described it as a "very sad day for everyone associated with our business on Teesside".

"Our employees and various partners have worked tirelessly and creatively to support the business in delivering high-quality products safely and sustainably over decades but our position now and looking ahead appears simply unsustainable.

"Every effort will now go into supporting our skilled and talented production technicians, and engineering, technical and business support staff during this difficult period."

Prices 'crippling industry'

Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP for Stockton North, said the announcement was a "blow to both the local area and the 238 people and their families who will be directly affected".

He called for the government to announce a long-term strategy to combat high energy prices and told BBC Radio Tees: "The company has been working hard to try to preserve these jobs but I really fear they may be going. The energy costs in this country are crippling industry.

"What's going to happen further down the line - are other organisations her going to be similarly affected and stop production? We've already seen CF Fertilisers stop making ammonia and instead import it from America.

"I really fear what the knock-on effect could be."

Follow BBC North East & Cumbria on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Send your story ideas to northeastandcumbria@bbc.co.uk.