HOPES are being raised that a major store chain could be interested in taking over the former Fordingbridge Club building, leading to scores of new jobs.

A potential buyer has been having confidential talks with the mayor over the Roundhills building, which has been empty for two years.

Mayor Malcolm Connolly says there is a “very genuine and committed” party investigating the potential of redeveloping the club, which is on the market with a £250,000 price tag.

He said: “All I can really say at this stage is that a well-known upmarket shop chain is interested in the site.

“I have had exploratory talks with a gentleman and I believe his interest is genuine and committed to a possible plan for the site.

“I believe the gentleman has had talks with New Forest District Council, however I cannot confirm this.

“If a planning application is sought and gained then the scheme would bring considerable employment opportunities and be hugely beneficial to Fordingbridge and the surrounding villages.”

Fordingbridge Club closed in 2012, just before a meeting was due to be held over plans to strip it of its licence following police concerns about drugs at the venue.

The site, which stands next to the town centre car park, is being marketed as suitable for a mixed-use development.

The site is about 0.16 acres and features two 19th century warehouses with extensions providing a floor space of 7,442 sq ft (691.4 sq m).

Fordingbridge has a Tesco Express and a Co-op, and a number of smaller independent stores.

When asked if it could become a supermarket Mr Connolly said: “I am sorry but I can’t answer that question at this stage.”

A district council spokesman said: “We have been approached on behalf of a high-end retail client that is interested in leasing the site if they can have exclusive use of a number of our car parking spaces, and we’re currently considering our position.”

Readers we spoke to were in favour of a cheaper supermarket, or a discount clothing store on the site, saying current options made them shop more online.

But Rotary Club secretary Stan Broomfield said: “The economics of a second supermarket in Fordingbridge do not make sense. Ringwood has a very good Waitrose and Sainsbury’s but it has a catchment area of double the size of Fordingbridge.

“I don’t believe a second supermarket could survive. But the site would make for a very good museum.”