A MULTI-million-pound plan by Asda to build a new store in Chandler's Ford has been rejected by councillors.

There were fears that the retail giant's proposal to flatten its existing store and build a new one could deal a major blow to Eastleigh's hopes of kick-starting its flagging town centre.

Eastleigh planning chief Colin Peters said that the Asda plan would have increased the Bournemouth Road store's floor space by 42 per cent.

He said: "That is the equivalent to 34 shops in Market Street and four times the size of Eastleigh's Sainsbury's.

"It could seriously undermine the council's efforts to regenerate the town centre and central Eastleigh.

"Eastleigh is not a strong retail centre and it is way behind cities such as Southampton and Portsmouth."

Asda maintains that the actual proposed increase in sales area was 14 per cent and that it was a golden opportunity to improve services to customers and relieve congestion in the Bournemouth Road area.

Councillor Glynn Davies-Dear said: "If we want to develop and improve the town centre we need to defend it."

Chandler's Ford Councillor Godfrey Olson believes that the council should try to work with Asda. He said: "We do not want to lose Asda. It employs nearly 1,000 people."

The Eastleigh Local Area Committee rejected the Asda plan by four votes to three.

It was more than a year ago that the company unveiled plans to bulldoze its Bournemouth Road building and replace it with a two-storey store.

A new store would create 50 new jobs on top of the 930 existing ones.

An Asda spokesman said: "We are currently refurbishing the exisiting store to allow us to improve and extend our range of goods and services provided at the store.

"We do also have a longer-term plan to build a brand new store at Chandler's Ford to further enhance our offering to our customers in the area."