ANOTHER 113 jobs are to leave East Lancashire in a black week for the local economy.

SSL International is to close its Blackburn factory -- known for decades as Cupal and one of the town's oldest employers -- next year and instead build a new facility in Peterlee in County Durham.

The firm said the nature of the King Street factory, a 150-year-old building close to the town centre, meant expansion and improvement of manufacturing of its products including cough mixture and foot powder there was not feasible.

And they said they could not find a suitable location anywhere in Blackburn or the North West for a new factory. Shocked workers arriving for their shifts at the factory this morning said they had been told the firm had been unable to get planning permission for a new site locally.

The 113 workers at the site, which is one of Blackburn's oldest employers, will be offered the chance to apply to relocate to Peterlee or to other SSL sites.

Vera Nicol, 52, of Darwen, said: "I have been here two years and it is a real shock because it is a good place to work. There had been rumours for some time about the place closing but when the news came it was still a big blow to everybody."

Graham Collyer, technical director at SSL, today pointed out that when the firm took over the Cupal site in 1992 it had planned to run it for a maximum of five years because of the constraints of the former mill building.

He said the five storey bulding, which is based around a wooden structure, had "proved too restrictive to cope with SSL's future production requirements." "We looked at every aspect of maintaining production there but eventually we were left with no option but to announce a planned withdrawal of production from the site next year.

"Other sites around Blackburn were assessed but nothing proved suitable."

The firm said £6million had been ploughed into the Blackburn site in recent years to extend its life and production capabilities. Mr Collyer paid tribute to the workforce at the site and said every opportunity will be made to offer re-location for employees.

He said the Peterlee site had a "combination of available labour, communications and the availability of a site which met our development needs".

Cupal, which was founded in 1909, was taken over by Oldham-based Seton Healthcare which went on to become SSL, a major worldwide player in the healthcare industry.

The firm's former joint managing director Ian Woolley, whose grandfather founded Cupal, described the news as "terribly sad" and said he was surprised SSL couldn't find a suitable new site locally.