ALMOST all the new jobs created at Tesco’s giant new chilled distribution warehouse in Widnes have been given to Halton people.

In the first week, all 55 new starters were local residents after almost 7,000 people applied to work at the state-of-the-art site.

Of the 155 workers recruited so far, 83 per cent live in Widnes or Runcorn.

Tesco says they were extremely impressed by the high calibre and motivation of the local workforce.

Up to 1,000 lorries a day will log in at airport-style check-ins once full capacity is reached and 750 jobs created.

Council leader, Clr Rob Polhill, said: “The promises we made to give employment opportunities to Halton people is coming to fruition.

“It is tremendous to have a big outfit like this in the borough.

“The regeneration and economic benefits it brings are enormous.”

The new 520,000 sq ft refrigerated warehouse marks the start of Eddie Stobart’s £25 million a year Tesco distribution contract.

It is the first phase of a development to transform a former brownfield derelict site beside the bridge into Stobart Park, a multimodal logistics service for warehousing and distribution.

Its road, rail, sea and freight links have already attracted companies like Maersk, Proctor and Gamble and Coca Cola.

Widnes-born Steve O’Connor, managing director of Stobart Ports, is confident more blue chip companies will invest, paving the way for 5,000 more jobs.

He said: “Tesco were applauding the quality of local applicants. It shows we have the right skills set and people prepared for the jobs on offer.

“We’ve got a willing and capable workforce.

“Tesco believes this is the right place to locate.

“At a time when money and investment is scarce, Tesco was delivered inside 12 months and inside budget.”

Stobart invited key stakeholders including Lord Barclay, chairman of the Rail Freight Group, to a marketing day in Widnes on Wednesday.

Guests were given a tour of the new facility, a helicopter ride over the site and detailed factual presentations.

Mr O’Connor said: “There is lots of interest in the site. This will act as a catalyst.

“We had a combination of current customers, potential customers and lots of agents who look after the procurement of land for various retailers.

“It was an opportunity for them to see a decent blueprint and a good case study.

“We will be disappointed if in the next six to 12 months we are not in a position to announce our next major client.”