Asda has said it plans to open 15 new stores and extend 20 existing sites this year, in a continued effort to close the gap on market leader Tesco.

The £600m expansion plan will include stores of all sizes throughout the UK and will create 6,000 jobs. Work began this week on Asda’s Supercentre in Milton Keynes, hitting the retailer’s target for 20 such stores by 2005. The 100,000 sq ft development will require 1,000 new workers - the retailer’s largest-ever recruitment drive for a single store.

Other sites will range from 16,000 to 55,000sq ft - the largest the Bearsden store in Glasgow that is set to be relocated. There are also plans to open five standalone non-food stores in the first half of this year, including a 26,000 sq ft Asda Living in Altrincham, Cheshire, a 30,000sq ft Asda Living in Cortonwood near Barnsley and a 16,000 sq ft George store in Swansea.

Asda also plans to acquire smaller sites this Spring - two former Co-operative Group stores in Peterhead, Aberdeen and Pembroke Dock in south Wales.