A NEW discount shop is expected to open at the site of a former Marks and Spencer store in Clacton town centre.

It is understood discount chain One Below is lined up for the prime Pier Avenue site, which has been empty for three years.

Marks and Spencer closed its doors in 2018 as part of the retail giant’s programme to reshape its estate of shops in the face of online competition.

The Gazette previously revealed Tendring Council had bought the shop’s freehold - the year before Marks and Spencer closed - for £3.1 million.

Town hall bosses insisted taxpayers would not be left out of pocket as Marks and Spencer’s £150,000 a year lease runs until 2027.

But in response to the closure, the council launched a working group to look at the future of the town centre.

One of the ideas put forward as part of a £20 million regeneration bid to Government's Levelling-Up Fund includes creating a new covered market and starter units.

Carlo Guglielmi, Tendring Council’s cabinet member for finance and corporate resources, said any decision to sub-let the building in Pier Avenue would need to be agreed by both Marks and Spencer and the council.

“M&S are advertising the building to rent and Tendring Council is working with them under the terms of their current lease – which runs until 2027 – to find a mutually beneficial solution for the property,” he said.

“It would be good to bring the building back into use in the short-term – being mindful of our longer-term plans under the Levelling Up Fund bid and proposal which would see the space turned into a covered market, start-up business units and covered walkway linking Pier Avenue and Jackson Road.

“However M&S are contractually obliged to continue paying the original rent to the council until the end of the lease, and are liable for the business rates on the building, so there is no impact on council finances as a result of the property being empty.”

Clacton Town Partnership chairman Graham Webb added: “People may be concerned about having yet another discount store in Clacton, but I think it’s still better that anyone is investing in the town and that we don’t have an empty shop.”

Poundstretcher, which has been mooted as one of the firm's that could take on the site, said it was not involved in the project, but that it would "love" to have a store in the town.