UPMARKET FOOD giant Waitrose has submitted a planning application to build a new store in Chelmsford.
Store bosses hope to take over the Royal Mail sorting office on Victoria Road and plan to create 180 jobs.
And as part of the application, 37 new homes are planned along with a community centre, 240 parking spaces and four retail and business units.
Property and development communications manager at Waitrose, James Armstrong, said: "Chelmsford is a vibrant and growing city and we would welcome the chance to add to the investment already being made by our business with the new John Lewis store.
"We are keen to play our part in ensuring Chelmsford remains an attractive city for both shoppers and businesses.
"We expect to create up to 180 jobs for local people, as well as supporting local causes through our Community Matters and Partner Volunteering initiatives.
"We would donate £12,000 every year to local charities and projects through our Community Matters scheme. Our nine existing stores in Essex have already shared nearly £300,000 between more than 800 causes.
"We would also make available 250 staff hours every year to local charities and projects through our Partner Volunteering scheme."
Manager of High Chelmer shopping centre, Mick Donagh said: "I am absolutely delighted that Waitrose has submitted this planning application and will be really happy to see them back in Chelmsford.
"If the planning application is approved it will be great for the city of Chelmsford and I am sure they will be able to make it work."
Waitrose closed its store in the Meadows shopping centre in 1998, just six years after opening, due to a lack of customers.
But after a public consultation involving 450 local residents in March, Waitrose bosses recorded a 99 per cent vote of support in principle from 265 comment forms.
This was made up of 77 per cent in full support with the proposals and 22 per cent in support with reservations.
Waitrose Development Surveyor, Grant Hobday, said: "We have been really encouraged by the fantastic response to our proposals and the submission of our application is another major step forward.
"Chelmsford already has a new John Lewis to look forward to and we would welcome the opportunity to add to the investment and new jobs being generated in the city.
"If Waitrose's application is approved and Royal Mail is successful in its own application to move to Montrose Road, Royal Mail intends to commence its relocation programme in 2014. Waitrose would then aim to open the new food shop in 2015."
The application comes as Primark prepares to open this September in High Chelmer and the city gears up for a John Lewis store as part of the £100 million redevelopment behind Debenhams.
Plans for Waitrose on Victoria Road are for a slightly bigger store than the one in Billericay.
Of the residential properties planned, an external developer would take over the construction of what is proposed to be mainly two bedroom apartments, with a third of the new builds one bedroom apartments.
For more information visit www.waitrose- chelmsford.co.uk where you can leave feedback.