A POPULAR clothing chain is set to bring a new lease of life to Basildon town centre.

Bonmarche is moving into the former Internationale fashion store, in Town Square, which has been empty since the company went bust in February.

The move has been welcomed by councillors and traders, who have become increasingly concerned over the amount of businesses leaving the town centre.

Last week the Echo revealed Basildon is awash with shut-up shops, with almost a fifth of units currently empty.

It comes after big names including Jessops, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Adams, and Peacocks left.

Pat Rackley, Labour councillor for St Martin’s ward, said: “It’s very nice to have a new business come to Basildon which isn’t a pound shop!

“We need to have more variety in the town centre.

“I think Bonmarche will be really popular. The clothes are not particularly expensive and are really fashionable.

“I often buy clothes from the website, so I will definitely be visiting when it opens.

“A lot of independent businesses which have opened recently have lasted about six months, so hopefully High Street chains will stay longer.

“Bonmarche should boost the town centre and encourage other businesses to follow.”

The retail chain, which is largely aimed at women over 50, has submitted plans to Basildon Council to revamp the unit.

New floor tiles and carpets will be put in, the walls will be painted, new ceiling tiles and lights will be installed and signs will be put up outside the shop.

It is not yet known howmany jobs Bonmarche will create.

There is already a store in the Eastgate Centre, but Bonmarche refused to confirm whether this would stay open.

Meanwhile, Metro Bank is set to open in the former Barclays site later this year, and hoardings have already gone up around the building.

A Party Fiesta franchise replaced Pure Party nearly two years ago, after the national retailer collapsed.

Sarah Ward, who works in the shop, called for business rates to be lowered to encourage more businesses to Basildon town centre.

She said: “I think rents are far too high in the town centre. It is extortionate, really. Business have got to cover that and all their other expenses and still make a profit.

“It’s really hard for independent businesses, so I think it’s really good a High Street chain has been found to fill Internacionale. It’s a pretty big store as well. We’re lucky because we had a lot of loyal customers stick with us after Pure Party collapsed.”