Plans for a Marks & Spencer department store and foodhall in Stevenage must be approved to create jobs and benefit the local economy, the town's MP has urged the planning authority.

If the planning application submitted to Stevenage Borough Council last month is approved, Unit 5 in the Roaring Meg Retail Park - the current Debenhams site - will be transformed into a near 10,000 square metre M&S store across two floors, with a foodhall and café.

M&S has applied for a formal change of the building's conditions that restricts the sale of food and drink, and suggests up to 150 jobs could be created.

M&S left Stevenage in 2015, saying the Queensway store was no longer commercially viable.

The proposed site at Unit 5 will replace the Debenhams store, after the retail giant collapsed into administration in January.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland has written to the council, supporting the new M&S store. He said: "It will draw a lot of consumers from neighbouring towns and villages, which will benefit the economy of Stevenage.

"From conversations I have had with local people, it is clear residents are travelling outside of Stevenage to meet their requirements, and this application could help reverse that trend.

"The proposal will attract employment opportunities for those in the town and create both short and long-term roles.

"Given the impact of the last year, it is important to encourage employment opportunities within the town.

"I ask the council to grant planning permission and encourage sustainable growth within Stevenage.

"Failure to utilise this opportunity could see the unit fall into disrepair, making it more difficult to find a suitable occupier in the future."

Herts County Council has recommended planning permission is refused because the travel plan is missing information, but accepts "the proposals would not ultimately lead to demonstrable harm to the surrounding highway network in terms of free flow and capacity".

Council leader Sharon Taylor says the plans "will have due consideration through the planning process".

To view the planning application and have your say, see reference 21/00260/FPM on the planning portal at