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MARKS and Spencer is the latest prestigious high street name to commit to Leigh after work began on its new food-only store in the town.

The retail giant’s Simply Food store is now taking shape on the Parsonage Retail Park, following a string of high-profile new stores opening in Leigh over the past 18 months.

Work has been going on to transform the unit next to the retail park’s expanded Sainsbury’s store for around a week, with the construction firm expected to hand over the finished unit to M&S for fitting out in mid-September.

The 10,000 sq ft store, which will only stock M&S’ luxury food ranges and is the only one of its kind in the borough, is intended to be finished in time for this year’s Christmas shopping.

Mike Nuttall, property director for the Brookhouse Group, which is developing the site, said: “This is a great coup for Leigh to be able to secure a retailer like M&S.

“M&S is expanding its food offer and is actively looking for sites for Simply Food stores, and we are pleased that Leigh ticks all the boxes.

“Sainsbury’s has also made a big commitment to the town by doubling its store size and creating one of its biggest stores in the area here. I think most retailers perceive Leigh as a growth point and feel there’s great potential here to expand in the future.”

The M&S store was originally going to be part of the park’s new Sainsbury’s store, but the supermarket giant decided the space was surplus to their requirements.

A planning application submitted to Wigan Council earlier this year called for a mezzanine floor to be built in the unit, though this does not form part of the trading area.

Only two units on the Parsonage site now remain unsold, with discussions continuing about the 8,977 sq ft unit next to the new M&S store and the 5,000 sq ft unit in the north-east corner of the site near to the Sainsbury’s petrol station.