East of England Co-operative society is ploughing £40m into its biggest ever development programme, with cash earmarked for building new stores and acquiring others.

Plans include construction of a new £10m Co-op supermarket and retail centre with space for other stores in Colchester, Essex, which is due to open in 2008. It is being built on the site of an existing outlet, which will be demolished only after the new building is completed, so that the supermarket can continue trading without a break.

The society has also revealed plans to build a further three new stores and upgrade six more. It would not confirm how many new stores it was planning in total across the region, but said it was seeking acquisitions. It is also rebranding its stores 'East of England' following the creation of the society by merger of Ipswich and Norwich Society with the Colchester and East Essex Society last October.