Discount supermarket chain Lidl has downplayed reports it intends to open more than 1,000 new stores across the UK, including three in the South Hams, we can reveal.

The firm released a ‘wish list’ of locations last week, announcing that it ‘planned’ to open 19 stores in Devon – three of them in the South Hams towns of Kingsbridge, Ivybridge and Totnes.

The firm, which has an eight per cent market share in the UK, said thousands of jobs would be created across the country.

Richard Taylor, Lidl GB Chief Development Officer, said there was “no ceiling on our ambition or growth potential”, adding that the firm was “continuing to invest in new locations whilst exploring innovative routes to expansion”.

The announcement sparked a huge response on social media, with some people asking if planning applications had already been submitted.

However a Lidl insider appeared to play down the announcement, revealing that the firm had neither given the go ahead to build the stores yet nor submitted formal planning permissions.

In response to a request by this paper for more detailed information, we were told: “(Lidl’s) property team is closely looking at these areas, and if the sites become available they are more likely to progress with the plans (there) than elsewhere in the country.”

The source added that the wish list, which is updated every year, was more “a call to people” and that individuals would receive a finders’ fee for submitting a suitable store site to Lidl.

The German low-cost chain said it will pay either 1.5 per cent of the total freehold purchase price, or 10 per cent of the first year’s rent for leaseholds, equating to more than £20,000 to anyone securing a new site.

The sites must be in prominent locations “with easy access and strong pedestrian or traffic flow”.

The supermarket chain, which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the opening of its first stores in the UK, currently has more than 960 outlets in the country, with 14 regional distribution centres, the latest of which in Luton is the firm’s largest anywhere in the world.

:: This article was edited on May 12 2024