WORK has begun on a £40 million expansion to Cheshire Oaks retail park which is expected to create 300 jobs.

The popular designer outlet – said to be the largest in the UK – already employs a whopping 2,600 people making it the largest employer in Ellesmere Port.

Once open this autumn, the 40,000 sq ft extension will also include a dedicated community space, new adventure playground and 300 extra parking spaces.

The extra retail space will allow 25 new designer and premium brands to move onto the site – although bosses cannot yet reveal names.

The Standard was given a tour of the retail park today when centre manager Kenny Murray outlined the vision of owners McArthurGlen.

He told our reporter that factors including a surge of visitors from countries such as China meant the outlet had never been more popular and stood to benefit from further expansion.

“This is an incredibly exciting time,” Mr Murray said. “Once complete, visitors will be able to enjoy some 400,000 sq ft of premium shopping space and an even greater mix of fashion, lifestyle and restaurant brands.

“We’ve continued to enhance the brand mix following a strong couple of years, and this latest phase is the next step in creating an even better shopping experience for our local catchment as well as our short and long haul visitors from Europe and beyond.”

He added: “While it’s too early to reveal any names, we are committed to expanding the extensive retail offering. In the past two years alone we’ve introduced highly sought-after brands including Cath Kidston, Puma and Karl Lagerfeld.”

There will be more than 170 brands represented at Cheshire Oaks once the new areas are complete while the inclusion of several ‘pop-up shop’ kiosks will allow even more to test the water. The site will not expand outwards, rather better use will be made of the existing space.

The extension will deliver an extra 300 parking spaces for visitors on a separate deck which will be constructed over one of the existing car parks. This will take the total number of spaces on the site to 3,200.

A year-round community space will be expanded and enhanced, while a new guest welcome centre, premium lounge, children’s play area, additional toilets and a 'Changing Places' facility for people with disabilities and mobility issues will also be built. Finally, a new footbridge will improve access for both customers and staff.

News of the expansion has been welcomed by community leaders in the area.

Justin Madders, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said: “This significant investment is to be welcomed; the creation of so many new jobs is a real positive and marks out Cheshire Oaks as one of the biggest employers in the region.

“It is clear that the good reputation Cheshire Oaks has stretches worldwide which is testament to the hard work and professionalism of everyone involved.”

And Chris Farrow, chairman of the Ellesmere Port Development Board, said: “This is an exciting time for Ellesmere Port with this new phase of development generating additional employment for the town adding to the many fantastic reasons to live in Ellesmere Port, not least the unbelievable value for money, host of family attractions, incredible shopping and some excellent green spaces.”

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for Economic Development and Infrastructure at Cheshire West and Chester Council, added: “This investment in further development of the centre will offer increased employment opportunities for hundreds of local people and help drive further economic growth for the town.”

Construction firm Mace will serve as the main contractor for the extension. The company boasts a strong portfolio of commercial projects that include John Lewis’ new flagship store in Leeds.