Marks & Spencer hopes to cut distribution times and boost access to key UK cities with a new facility in south Essex.

The retailer is putting £200m into a new 900,000 sq ft distribution centre at London Gateway, which it says will create 700 new jobs.

The site was visited by prime minister David Cameron yesterday, and construction is expected to begin in 2014.

London Gateway is a new deep-sea container port on the north bank of the Thames about 25 miles from central London. Operated by DP World, it is set to open at the end of this year.

“London Gateway will become our third large distribution centre in the UK as we transform our logistics operations into a modern and agile supply chain, fit for the future of M&S,” said M&S boss Marc Bolland.

“As we become an international, multi-channel retailer, London Gateway will help us become more efficient by cutting costs and locating our supply chain closer to our stores and our international markets. It will also help us deliver against our Plan A objectives by removing road miles and emissions from our network.”

M&S is hosting a Plan A conference this week – featuring former US vice president Al Gore – which will look at issues around sustainability and supply chain transparency. Last week, M&S announced it had hit 139 of its 180 Plan A sustainability targets.

The London Gateway distribution centre will be used to store clothing, home and gift products before transportation around the UK and to M&S stores abroad, the retailer said. It will use a new rail line at London Gateway to connect the facility to its vast new e-commerce distribution centre in Castle Donington, which opened in May.