DEPARTMENT store The Range has confirmed it will open in Pitsea next year after Morrisons abandoned its plans for the town.

The future of the partially-built 75,000 sq ft store in Rectory Park Drive was placed in doubt earlier this month after the supermarket chain announced it would not be moving onto the site.

Morrisons had lined up The Range, which has an existing store in Short Street, Southend, to take on the lease of the unit in its place.

But the deal had to be approved by London and Cambridge Properties, the developer leading the £30million Pitsea regeneration project, which was signed off on the basis Morrisons would be at its heart.

The Range will not take on the entire unit, with its new store measuring 54,000 sq ft and including a family cafe.

Chris Dawson, owner of the chain, said: “Opening a new store is always an exciting moment for the company and Pitsea is no exception.

“We feel that The Range is a unique shopping experience that has something for everyone and we look forward to inviting the people of Pitsea to experience what The Range is all about”.

The Range, which has more than 110 stores nationwide, has 16 departments, including DIY, arts and crafts, furniture and homewares.

It is expected the new store will open “early” next year and will create 80 jobs, a mixture of full-time and part-time positions.

The decision to build the unit was a controversial one, with 5,000 residents signing a petition in 2012 urging Basildon Council not to knock down Pitsea swimming pool.

At the time, ruling councillors justified the decision by claiming Morrisons was a dealmaker for the regeneration project.

But in June, the supermarket announced it was “reviewing” its plans for Pitsea, amid nationwide cutbacks on opening new stores.

Construction work in Rectory Park Drive then stopped, with only the shell of the new store having been built.

Gavin Callaghan, Labour councillor for Pitsea North West, said: “If The Range was the original tenant, they wouldn’t have required something that size.

“We could have built a store three-quarters of the size and kept Pitsea swimming pool.”