AROUND 1,000 jobs for South Lakeland and Furness workers have been secured after a huge investment was made in one of the region’s biggest employers.

BAE Systems, in Barrow, has been awarded a £328 million contract from the Ministry of Defence which placed an order for the first designs for the Vanguard replacement programme.

The Vanguard Class comprises four submarines – HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant and HMS Vengeance – all of which were built by workers at the Barrow shipyard from 1985 to 1999.

The new submarines have yet to be given an official name, though the programme is referred to as ‘Successor’ by those involved in it.

The first of the new class will be delivered in 2028 to provide the nation’s nuclear deterrent into the 2060s.

Managing director John Hudson said: “This contract is a key step forward in our business strategy to deliver a seven-boat Astute programme followed by the replacement class for the Vanguard submarines.

“Not only does it help sustain the jobs of over 1,000 skilled employees working on the programme, it also provides the opportunity to grow our workforce by a further 280 in 2012.”

The remainder of the contract, which is worth around £350m in total, is split between the other industrial partners, Babcock and Rolls-Royce, to cover design aspects of in-service support and the submarine’s reactor design.

Harry Knowles, chief executive of Furness Enterprise, said: “It is absolutely vital that we continue to develop nuclear submarine building skills and the best way of doing this is to ensure that we have got orders for the future.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said it was good news but questioned how long it had taken. He said: “This important and overdue staging post will be warmly welcomed in the yard but underlines the government's folly in delaying the overall programme and postponing the main vote on whether to go ahead until after the election.”