A MAJOR restaurant chain has signed up to open a new branch in Oxfordshire when a much-anticipated shopping centre expansion project is finished.

Nando’s has become the latest big name to sign a lease at Didcot’s Orchard Centre which is currently undergoing a £50million renovation.

The South African restaurant, which already has branches in Oxford and Bicester, will open a new 2,604 sq ft restaurant next to the existing Next store.

The brand, famous for its Peri Peri chicken, joins other big names including M&S, Boots, River Island and TK Maxx to commit to the new centre with the first store openings due this spring.

Developer Hammerson who also jointly own Bicester Village, are behind the project.

Andrew Berger-North, the company's UK director of retail parks, said: "We are delighted to welcome Nando's to Didcot, where it will complement and enhance the town's growing restaurant offer.

"The ability of the Orchard Centre to attract international brands such as Nando's is testament to its appeal."

Expanding the Orchard Centre is seen as a key part of the town's future growth and has been long-awaited by many of the town's residents.

Some 15,000 new homes and tens of thousands of new people are expected over the next 20 years as part of the initiative to turn Didcot into a 'garden town'.

The existing centre opened in 2005 and includes the Cineworld cinema and Cornerstone Arts Centre.

Adding an extra 150,000 sq ft, the redevelopment includes 21 new shops and seven new restaurants and cafes.

It will also create an additional 325 car parking spaces bringing the total number of spaces at the new Orchard Centre up to 875.

Some 500 new jobs are expected to be created.

The leader of South Oxfordshire District Council John Cotton said: "With the expansion of the Orchard Centre and ongoing plans for the garden town, Didcot is fast becoming a genuine destination for shoppers and visitors alike.

"We are delighted that Nando's is coming to Didcot and know that the restaurant will be extremely popular with many coming into the town centre."