Work on the Bond Street retail development in Chelmsford, which will include a John Lewis flexible format department store, began today with a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the occasion.

Set to open in autumn 2016, John Lewis Chelmsford will anchor the second phase of the Bond Street development in Chelmsford City Centre, owned by Aquila. The scheme willinclude 20 retail units, providing a mix of shops, river fronted restaurants, and a cinema.

John Lewis Chelmsford will offer the full John Lewis product assortment, including fashion, beauty, electronics, home and nursery. The retailer will boost local employment with the creation of around 350 new jobs, and John Lewis' investment in the city stands at around £15m.

The chairman of Essex County Council, Councillor Norman Hume, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Chelmsford City Council, Councillors Bob Villa and Valerie Villa, were among the attendees of today's ceremony, along with the founder of Aquila Tony Chambers and other key stakeholders from the local community who have helped considerably with this project.

Tim Harrison, director of store development at John Lewis, says: "It's fantastic to see work start on the Bond Street development in Chelmsford, and what better way to mark the occasion than by bringing key stakeholders from the local community together? We're excited at the prospect of opening a flexible-format department store here, allowing us to create around 350 new jobs in the local area and providing John Lewis customers with greater convenience and ease of access to a broad range of products.

"The shop's selling space will total 90,000 sqft split over three floors, and will include a customer cafe. John Lewis Chelmsford is the third flexible department store to be announced by the retailer, following Exeter which opened in 2012 and York which opened last year.