There continues to be "lots of interest" in the vacant John Lewis site in Watford.

According to the town’s mayor, there could be an announcement on the empty store’s future in the coming weeks or months.

Atria Watford shopping centre owners Global Mutual are understood to be in discussions with a number of operators within the retail and leisure sector to help fill the huge space.

The site is expected to retain its social and economic use, with the Observer categorically told the site will not be turned into flats or other residential units.

According to the Guardian, John Lewis is considering plans to build 10,000 homes over the next decade as the high street store group looks to revive its finances by becoming a landlord.

The company is understood to have identified enough excess space on the land it owns to build at least 7,000 homes.

But this won’t be in Watford because John Lewis has vacated the shopping centre site and its legal contracts, and therefore has no say in its future use.

Mayor Peter Taylor told the Observer yesterday: "John Lewis is not going to become homes."

He added in a podcast with Watford Football Club fans group Do Not Scratch Your Eyes last week: "I did have a meeting with Global Mutual this week and they said there's lots of interest and it's just a question of who out of the many interested people goes in there.

"Watch this space because hopefully in the next few weeks, there will be an announcement on that."

And Steve Gray, head of European retail asset management at Global Mutual, said in May: "We’ve seen a good level of interest in the space and we continue to engage with a number of operators.

"As restrictions ease and people venture out, retail and leisure brands are once again focused on finding and securing high quality space – where footfall is healthy and the existing tenant mix is strong. Atria Watford offers exactly this, and we expect continued interest in our offering more widely over the coming weeks."

The store has been lying empty since last summer after John Lewis took the decision to close its historic store in Watford.

The company said the Watford branch was "financially challenged" even before the pandemic struck.