BUDGET supermarket giant Lidl has set out aspirational plans to open SIX new stores across south Essex.

The retailer could potentially open stores across Basildon, Billericay, and Wickford, as well as more central parts of Southend, Rayleigh, and Rochford, with each area marked by company as “desired locations”.

This comes after planning permission was given for a new Lidl to be built on the corner of Luckyn Lane and Miles Gray Road, in Basildon, with the budget supermarket chain beginning to take the county by storm.

Former Lidl employee and Southend council business boss Kevin Robinson said: “I used to work at the Lidl off Sutton Road all the way back in 2005 when I was doing my nurses training, so being a former employee and the cabinet member for business, culture and tourism in the borough I’ve seen first hand how popular their stores can be.

“Having the discounted way of shopping seems to be quite appealing for those who live nearby, so any new development which attracts this kind of business- especially in the hard times we face at the moment- can only be a good thing.”

He added: “I myself shop at Lidl on occasion, but having this expansion will give people more choice, will create jobs, and should do really well where the brand has already established themselves around the town. I can’t see there being many complaints.

“In terms of whereabouts [of] these stores, it’s really down to the company and where they think their business will best grow. I’m sure the council will support them in achieving this as best they can.”

Bosses at the supermarket say they are looking to “double their portfolio”, with freehold, leasehold or long leasehold opportunities sought in a number of towns and cities.

Their ideal sites have been described as either in town or out of town, with a main road frontage, easy access and strong pedestrian or traffic flow. The company also has an option to convert existing buildings into a Lidl store.

Each location has not been confirmed, but rather represents a rough idea of where the chain is hoping to expand across the country.

Southend currently has three Lidl stores, in Progress Road, at The Greyhound Retail Park, and in Woodgrange Drive.

Basildon has three, in Manor Road, Laindon, in Christopher Martin Road and in Pitsea.

Basildon Mayor David Burton-Sampson said: “In the current climate where there’s a lot of uncertainty about how business will cope in the long run, this is fantastic news and any investment in the area is fantastic.

“I know the supermarket is proactively looking for sites to develop on, with building on the Pipps Hill store set to soon take place. The town will also see a new store in Laindon.

“New additions will give our residents as much choice as possible and I think many would be happy to see more in the area.”

Southend Council leader Ian Gilbert added: “Although location could depend on people’s opinions as to whether we necessarily need any more Lidl stores in the area, I don’t think the company would propose to expand here if there wasn’t a custom for it.

“We are reasonably well-served for supermarkets, especially in the central area of the town, but even so it’s great to hear that they could expand here and actually grow rather than close given the current state of affairs.

“It will be interesting to see where they choose to do this, if things go ahead. Having new jobs in the borough will be fantastic if anything for our residents.”

He added: “There are some vacancies for stores along the Southend High Street which sits in the central part of the borough, but from my experience larger supermarkets such as Lidl don’t usually go for a bigger development on this strip.

“We will have to wait and see where the stores could go.”