WAITROSE is looking at Haywards Heath as a location for a new supermarket, the Mid Sussex Times can reveal.
The company, a member of the John Lewis Partnership, already has a major presence in the district within the Market Place shopping centre, Burgess Hill.
News of Waitrose's interest in the town comes at a time when Sainsbury's is looking to further extend its supermarket near the railway station.
An application to extend its Bannister Way premises and car park goes before district councillors tonight.
Further details of the plan are on page three.
Waitrose declined to confirm its interest with a spokesman saying the company was always looking for new sites but she would not discuss specific locations.
There has been considerable speculation in recent months that other supermarket companies wanted to move into the town and compete with Sainsbury's.
Over the past year Tesco has shown interest in the area, but talks with Mid Sussex District Council ground to a halt.
It has been suggested that any Tesco store would be of the "convenience" type, although it is understood Waitrose would look at a full-blown supermarket.
A spokesman for Mid Sussex District Council explained: "We know that Waitrose is interested in having a presence in Haywards Heath and we have had preliminary discussions with them.
"However, these discussions are at a very early stage and there are no firm proposals at the moment.
"The council welcomes the interest of Waitrose in Haywards Heath and its potential involvement in our plans for town centre renewal."
In June, the Mid Sussex Times revealed the district council was putting together a series of strategies to tackle many of the town's problems.
It is planning to team up with a "heavyweight" private sector partner to tackle:
*Expansion of the Orchards shopping centre;
*Town centre car parking;
*Development of the railway station site;
*Overhauling the town centre;
*Re-locating the district council offices.