DISCOUNT chain B&M is poised to take over the former Homebase store at Bournemouth's council-owned Mallard Road Retail Park.

The business, which announced yesterday that it is to open 45 new stores this year after sales soared during the coronavirus lockdown, has lodged an application with BCP Council to alter the interior of the former Homebase unit, which is a Grade II listed building.

B&M, which sells goods including DIY and foodstuffs, currently operates another store at Mannings Heath Retail Park in Poole.

It initially closed 60 stores in shopping centres during the pandemic, but reopened them quite quickly.

Group sales jumped by 25.3 per cent between 29 March and 26 September, and the retailer raised its earnings forecast for the period to about £285million from its previous estimate of £250 to £270million.

"Our people have risen to the many challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis, not least in serving our customers through a period of high demand, keeping our shelves filled, providing a clean and safe shopping environment, as well as sourcing higher volumes than we had planned," said Simon Arora, B&M chief executive.

"I thank them all for their commitment, hard work and resilience."

In 2018 the Echo reported how Mallard Road Retail Park was bought by Bournemouth Borough Council as an investment for £49 million.

The following summer Homebase quit their premises on the council-owned site after failing to reach an agreement to reduce the rent bill of nearly £1million a year.

A design and access statement accompanying B&M's Mallard Road application, said: "The design meets all the relevant considerations and is entirely appropriate in scale and form for this site and its environs and we have consulted with the heritage officer prior to making this application, so any relevant pre-application comments and concerns have been addressed in the proposals."

Listed in 1999, the Mallard Road Retail Park unit was originally designed to be used for buses and trolley buses.

A heritage statement which forms part of B&M's application said: "Significance lies in historical and architectural value, principally the expansive clear span roof constructed of pre-stressed concrete, a reinforced concrete shell comprising nine cylindrical vaults supported by clear span beams."