Safeway said it has the potential to add 11% to its total sales area in the UK subject to planning consent.

Chairman David Webster said that at the end of the first half the group had 79 approvals for megastore extensions or resolutions to grant consent.

Webster noted that if all these projects - including those already in build - were fully developed a further 1.2 million sq feet of selling space would be added.

He said that the group had opened two new stores in the first half - in Sidcup and Barnard Castle, adding a total of 42,500 sq feet sales area.

Work is in progress on a new store in Bangor, Northern Ireland and six store extensions were in progress - including three megastores -to be completed early next year.