JOBS in Essex have been safeguarded as car giant Ford announced plans to develop a new generation of environmentally friendly engines and vehicle technologies.

Ford's plans will safeguard about 2,800 skilled jobs in the UK at its research and development centre at Dunton as well as its manufacturing plants in Dagenham, Southampton and Bridgend in South Wales.

Ford and Nissan, which is to make a new electric car in Sunderland, will both receive Government support towards almost £2 billion investment.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson announced that the Government had agreed to back Ford's proposed £1.5 billion investment over five years.

The Government will provide £360 million in loan guarantees towards six projects through its Automotive Assistance Programme, backing a proposed loan of £450 million which is being considered by the European Investment Bank.

Ford currently provides 29 per cent of the UK's automotive sector research and development.

The projects to be supported cover research and development for Ford's commercial vehicles such as the Transit and Connect vans and the development of low carbon emission diesel and petrol engines.

Lord Mandelson, who will visit Ford's site in Dagenham today, said: "Ford is a major investor in research and development in the UK. Its proposals represent further significant investment in the UK. The Government stands ready and willing to support these innovative research and development projects backed by a highly skilled workforce.

"As part of the automotive industry, Ford has an important role to play in the UK's aim to be one of the leading manufacturers of low carbon vehicles."