Store wars hots up as yet another cut-price chain eyes up an empty supermarket near Preston

Budget store wars could see yet another cut price shop open near Preston,  this time in a former Tesco outlet which has stood empty for more than three years.

Home Bargains are said to be eyeing up the huge unit at the Capitol Centre in Walton-le-Dale which once housed a Tesco Home Plus and was last occupied by Fabb Sofas.

The owners of the property - the Royal London UK Estate Fund - have asked South Ribble Council to relax a strict planning condition which limits the amount of food it can sell.

The company says that would open the way for Home Bargains to move into the 35,000 square foot unit, creating the discount retailer's 21st store in Lancashire and creating up to 110 new jobs.

The last time the store was in use was June 2018 as Fabb Sofas.

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The news comes just three weeks after it was revealed Aldi was planning a new store on the Preston Docks complex - its fifth in the city, with a sixth also in the pipeline at Cottam.

Lidl already have three stores in Preston and are planning three more, as a well as searching for sites in Penwortham and Bamber Bridge - part of company plan to launch 19 new outlets across Lancashire by 2023.

B&M are now trading from four sites in the city and there are other cut-price chains in the area, meaning bargain-hunting shoppers have never had it so good.

The Home Bargains store less than two miles away in Deepdale Road, Preston.

The Capitol Centre store was originally occupied by MFI, but Tesco took it over in 2007 for a large Home Plus store selling a wide range of non-food goods.

Planning permission in 2007 for a two-storey extension to the unit imposed conditions on the use of the building, including one which limited the sale of food to an area of just 93 square metres.

Royal London have now applied to have that increased to up to 30 per cent of the store area to allow Home Bargains to move in.

Tesco vacated the building in June 2015 with the loss of 87 jobs. Fabb Sofas opened there in May 2017 - one of nine stores across the UK run by former DFS founder Lord Kirkham - but the company went into administration in June 2018.

The store has been empty for more than three years since Fabb went into administration.

The giant unit has remained empty since then, but if permission is granted and Home Bargains moves in, it will mean a disused unit being brought back into use and a boost of more than 100 full and part-time retail jobs at the Capitol Centre.

In the application to South Ribble the owners say that while Home Bargains sell a range of food and drink, the company is mainly a non-food discount retailer and does not operate primarily as a food store like the nearby Waitrose supermarket.

They are asking for "flexibility" to have up to around 10 times the current restriction on floorspace, if necessary, to devote to food sales.