ONE of the North-East’s most successful firms is planning a new £4.5m shop in the region.

Furniture retailers Barker and Stonehouse want to open a new store on the site of a derelict former leisure centre at Teesside Park shopping and leisure centre, near Stockton.

However the firm, which is the largest independent retailer in the UK and was founded in Stockton in 1946, will close its large Middlesbrough branch currently at Cannon Park.

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A planning application has been submitted to Stockton Borough Council to tear down the former Springs Leisure Centre which has been closed since 2007, and open a 4,827sqm store, which will be about the size of a football pitch.

A Barker and Stonehouse spokeswoman said there were no plans to shed any jobs and there was in fact the possibility of creating more vacancies. The plan is open the new shop in early 2015.

James Barker, Managing Director of Barker and Stonehouse, said: “The site provides an excellent location for our new store, allowing us to raise the bar and design a top quality, uniquely inspiring environment that customers will really enjoy visiting.”

Barker said the new store would create significant work for local firms on Teesside, from design, build and fit out to additional roles in store.

Stockton Borough Council's planning committee has refused two previous applications to develop the prime site at the former Springs Leisure Centre, which is close to the entrance of Teesside Park.

The first application was to create a warehouse on the site. However refusing the second application, to create a 66-bedroom Travelodge hotel, was more controversial with some councillors arguing it was counter-productive to turn down a major investment in the area from a national company.

Charles Barker and Alex Stonehouse opened the first Barker and Stonehouse store on Bishopton Lane, Stockton, in early 1946 on their return from serving with the RAF in the Second World War.

The company now employs 300 staff and owns nine stores across the UK with showroom space totalling 300,000 sq. ft.