IKEA is lining up its long awaited move to open a store in the Reading area.
The Chronicle can exclusively reveal the firm has bought six acres at Calcot for a potential new store, estimated to be in the region of £10 million.
The Swedish furniture giant has bought Pincents Lane Retail Park and Berkshire Retail Park as part of its 'landbanking' strategy to acquire land for possible stores.
The two sites, near Junction 12 of the M4, are currently occupied by a Homebase, CarpetRight and bowling alley Reading Bowl as well as the former Utopia nightclub. There are also a number of derelict units opposite the Dunelm Mill store.
Hammerson, the previous owner of both sites, had planned to build new units on that plot and one was expected to be occupied by Irish toy retailer Smyths.
But last Friday Ikea, which has 18 stores in Britain, completed the deal to buy both sites. Ikea spokeswoman Lois Blenkinsop confirmed yesterday: "As part of our expansion plans, Ikea has been identifying sites around the country for potential stores.
"One site that we have recently purchased is the Pincents Lane and Berkshire Retail Park in Theale. However, we have no confirmed plans for an Ikea store on this site yet."
The news was welcomed locally although there are concerns about access because of the thousands of customers that Ikea stores regularly attract.
The only way to reach the site using the existing road layout would be for motorists to share the Sainsbury's access from the A4 dual carriageway, which brings traffic from Reading or the M4 motorway. Reading-based property consultants Hicks Baker's Fiona Brownfoot said: "An Ikea there would be fantastic for the town. It would put us on the map."
She added: "They've got to get the highways right but West Berkshire Council will ensure highways provisions are perfectly adequate for the large number of people that would visit the stores each year."
Tilehurst Parish Council chairman Jean Gardner said her biggest concern would be access but she added: "I am sure a lot of people will be very pleased if there were an Ikea there, very pleased indeed."
Ikea's Danish rival Ilva had planned to open on the same site in 2006 but pulled out of the UK last year.