PLANS for the £50m extension of Didcot’s Orchard shopping centre could be approved by June, having now been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC).

Four years ago, shopping centre owner Hammerson put forward plans for a £125m extension, but the original proposal has been scaled down and new homes are no longer part of the scheme.

Hammerson has now submitted a revised application for 24 new shops – including a Marks & Spencer food store as the anchor tenant – plus six restaurants and cafes, a new gym and 225 parking spaces.

Plans include a new bus route via Station Road, as the current service road between Broadway and Hitchcock Way will be built on.

Bus companies want to use Station Road so passengers can travel to the shopping centre while avoiding the Jubilee Way roundabout, which gets heavily congested at peak times.

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SODC leader John Cotton said: “The planning application is now in and that’s a move forward.

“Now people in Didcot need to express their views on the options that are being put forward as part of the planning process.

“It has taken a long time to get to this point and the application now needs to be judged against planning policy.

“I expect it will be June before the application goes before the planning committee.”

Mr Cotton has said that the target date for the new shops to open is Christmas 2016.

The developer’s agent, GL Hearn, said: “It is proposed to extend the shopping centre to the east. The development proposal seeks to create an enhanced attractive retail and leisure offer in Didcot town centre.”

Labour town councillor Margaret Davies said: “This is very good news.

“Didcot has a strong retail offer already and this will make it even stronger.”