HOUSE of Fraser at Lakeside Shopping Centre will close next year, it has been announced.

Sports Direct has announced the closure of four more House of Fraser stores, including the one at Lakeside Shopping Centre.

Earlier this year House of Fraser announced it was facing difficult times but Sports Direct stepped in to save the department store chain.

Shoppers have raised serious concerns about the effect of this on the shopping and the future of the popular south Essex shopping destination.

The closures come after the new owners Sports Direct failed to reach an agreement with the landlord.

The landlord of the sites is London-listed Intu, which is in the midst of a potential sale to a group of investors.

Sports Direct said it had engaged with the company but was ultimately "unable to agree reasonable terms for these stores to continue trading".

Chief executive Mike Ashley said: "We had multiple meetings with Intu, but we were no further forward after 14 weeks.

"Unfortunately, these stores now face closing in the new year. I urge other institutional landlords to be more proactive to help save the HoF stores in their schemes."

Sports Direct is now in consultation with staff at the affected stores.

It comes on the same day as Intu pushed back the deadline for a second time on its talks with a consortium of buyers looking to take over the business.

A group led by John Whittaker's Peel Group now has until November 22 to make a firm offer.

Mr Ashley has previously made public statements attacking the "greedy landlords" of House of Fraser stores.

It is understood that many landlords are reluctant to agree to the low rents Mr Ashley is demanding.

The tycoon has warned that time is "running out" and said that some stores will have to close.

Following his acquisition of the chain in August, Mr Ashley pledged to save around 47 of House of Fraser's 59 outlets.

Wednesday's announcement adds to previously announced closures in Edinburgh, Hull and Swindon.

A spokesman for Lakeside said: "We have been advised today that the House of Fraser at intu Lakeside will be closing next year as part of their national stores review. We have had a number of meetings with SportsDirect to try to agree terms. While we cannot discuss the detail, we have been unable to reach an agreement.

"There’s a lot going on at the centre and our plans mean that we have a number of exciting new brands currently in negotiations to take their first stores at intu Lakeside whilst others are looking at their existing stores to make sure they are making the most of their presence in the centre. We’re sure that this investment will create new jobs.

"We also believe there is a real opportunity to reuse this space for new and exciting alternatives. We have a strong track record of doing just that and have some great ideas on the table including other big retail brands but also non-traditional shopping centre uses.

"Our teams continually look at options that will create the right mix of retail and leisure to meet the needs of our customers, giving them a great experience and even more reasons to smile."

Unions have now called on Sports Direct to engage with unions.

Dave Gill – Usdaw National Officer says: “Today’s news that Sports Direct are to close four more stores in the new year is devastating news for the staff affected.

“House of Fraser staff have so far been frozen out of the discussions about the future of the business and are largely hearing about developments through the media. With the management team being dismissed, seven stores closing, the future of others not yet settled and no clear business strategy laid out, there are still a great deal of uncertainties for staff, who are key to the success of the company.

“It is crucial that staff are treated with dignity and fairness and that is best done by engaging with Usdaw as the trade union for House of Fraser staff, providing a collective voice. We are seeking talks with Sports Direct and clarity for the staff. Nobody is really sure what Mike Ashley means when he says he wants to transform House of Fraser into ‘the Harrods of the high street’.

“In the meantime we are providing our members with the support, advice and representation they require at this very difficult time.”