One of Britain’s most successful department stores is a step closer to coming to Sussex.

Retail giant John Lewis has expressed an interest in opening an out-of-town store in Crawley.

But Crawley Borough Council could block plans to open the store in the Manor Royal business park over fears it could harm the town centre.

David Covill, director of resources at the council, said: “We have been working with John Lewis for years.

“We’d love to have one of their stores here to attract shoppers from across the county.

“But we are a council that puts our town centre first.

“We would be very concerned about the impact of a John Lewis store open- ing in an out-of-town location.

“In other parts of the country, out of town department stores have certainly had a detrimental effect.”

The council officer said some councillors may support the Manor Royal plan, but that Crawley planning policy was clearly geared towards promoting the town centre.

A spokeswoman for John Lewis confirmed the company was continuing “to seek a suitable location for a new shop in Crawley”.

But she would not comment specifically on the Manor Royal site, saying: “John Lewis is often linked to new retail-led developments and we don’t comment on market speculation.”

Mark Froud, chief executive of Sussex Enterprise, said: “With the recent news reporting showing major retailers closing stores in Sussex this is very positive news about the possibility of John Lewis opening in Crawley.

“Whilst it is a shame that they are now considering an out-of-town site, prosperity should be the main concern for the area.

“We hope that this move will provide much needed jobs in the retail sector.”