A NEW food store is being planned by the Co-op for the former Waitrose in Wallingford town centre.

The Co-operative Group has submitted its £1.5m plans to South Oxfordshire District Council for the new store at the St Martin’s Street site, with seven first-floor flats above.

The store has stood empty for long periods since 2004 when Waitrose moved to its current location at the other end of St Martin’s Street.

Since Waitrose moved, civic leaders have been hoping for a long-term tenant, but it has only been home to pop-up stores such as hardware chain Circle 7, which has now moved out.

The Co-op owns part of the vacant site and its development proposal comes as store giant Morrisons prepares a planning application for a new store on the Hithercroft industrial estate on the edge of town.

Town clerk Andrew Rogers said agents for the Co-op gave a presentation to town councillors regarding the plans, and added: “The food store would take up one of three vacant units on the ground floor.

“It will be a huge boost to this part of town and for years people have wanted more choice when it comes to food shopping.”

Wallingford in Business spokesman Elaine Hornsby said: “I think this is fabulous news. We desperately need two types of food outlet people can walk to, and I think it will boost trade across the town centre.”

A Co-op spokesman said: “We are looking to invest a substantial amount of money to create a modern retail unit and flats above.

“The investment could be in the region of about £1.5m.”

The food store is expected to cover about 3,000 sq ft but it is not yet known how many jobs it would create.

Morrisons’ mid-size store plus a filling station could bring about 300 full and part-time jobs. Mr Rogers was not concerned it would threaten town-centre trade.