Waitrose is to open a new regional distribution centre in Lancashire as part of plans to double its estate in the north.

The centre in Chorley remains subject to planning approval but is expected to open in the autumn of 2012, creating 600 jobs.

Comprising a 360,000 sq ft warehouse, 50,000 sq ft office space and a vehicle maintenance unit, it will be the retailer’s fifth RDC and would allow Waitrose to service up to 80 branches.

In the past six years Waitrose has opened seven stores in the northwest, seven in Yorkshire, three in the northeast and three in Scotland. It has previously announced plans to double its estate in the north within the next five years.

“We’ve made no secret of our plans to take the Waitrose brand to more people in more places and we’re currently still under-represented in the north – a key area for our growth ambitions,” said supply chain director David Jones.

“This new regional distribution centre will provide a vital platform for future expansion and unlock significant opportunities for us to open more shops in the north of England and Scotland.”

Under an agreement reached with Evander Properties, Waitrose will develop and lease the 30-acre warehouse site for 25 years. A planning application for the new RDC will be submitted to Chorley Borough Council on 6 April. If consent is given, the recruitment of drivers, warehouse workers, office staff and caterers would begin next spring.

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