A MAJOR discount supermarket has its eye on Winchester after bosses revealed plans to expand across the south.

Budget retailer Lidl plans to double its portfolio and continue its “phenomenal growth”.

The German chain is now looking for “great quality locations” to open new stores.

Winchester city centre is one of nine sites earmarked by Lidl - although the city already has a Sainsbury's, Tesco and Iceland close to the high street.

The chain has also announced that it has its sights on opening a new store in Badger Farm.

Despite the company’s plans to expand it has not given details of any specific sites.

Winchester City councillor and cabinet member Martin Tod welcomed the news that it could offer better prices for residents.

He said: "It is good to see that there is still real enthusiasm from national retailers to invest in Winchester, if that helps keeps shopping more affordable for people that can only be a good thing.

"I think competition is a good thing and if that helps keeps prices down and improves the offer for people."

Cllr Tod added: "I am still encouraged that people want to invest in Winchester. It is good that we have shops for tourists and visitors, we need shops that work for everyone, for people no matter what budget.

"Anything that keeps people coming into the city centre can only be a good thing."

And Winchester Business Improvement District executive director Paul Spencer aired mixed feelings about the mooted plans due to existing supermarkets, but he said: "It is a different price point from what we have already got but we are already quite well served but it is potential something for a slightly different market. We have got a Tesco in our area on the high street and a Sainsbury's, along with a little Co-op on City Road."

Dr Spencer added: "Any business looking at Winchester is a positive thing, we will work with them and the city to add value for people that use the city centre."

A spokesperson for Lidl said: “As part of ongoing national expansion plans, our dedicated property teams are working hard to identify suitable locations across England, Scotland and Wales. This is for both new stores where there is demand for a Lidl, and existing stores that we would like to remodel for customers, which may require a relocation to do so. We would encourage any landowners or agents who may be aware of suitable sites, to get in touch with our property teams to discuss.”

In Southampton, it hopes to open stores in Bassett, Bitterne and Portswood, while relocating its stores in Totton and Townhill.

In the borough of Eastleigh it plans stores for Chandler's Ford, Hedge End.

Further afield its has said it is looking at locations in Romsey and Lymington.