Up to 400 jobs are under threat at Ocado after the online grocer said it would take two years to rebuild a distribution centre destroyed in a fire.

The launch of the redundancy process, affecting just under half the 850-strong workforce, comes after a devastating blaze ripped through the automated warehouse facility in Andover, Hampshire, in February.

The firm, which currently delivers groceries for Waitrose and Morrisons as well as for Ocado’s online store, has been unable to find a suitable alternative site in the area.

A company spokesman said: “In light of the fact that the rebuild of Andover CFC [customer fulfilment centre] will take at least two years to complete, it is with immense regret that we have commenced a formal consultation process.

“We would like to thank all of our colleagues for their hard work and we will provide them with all the support we can during this process.

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“We are committed to rebuilding and restoring our operations in Andover and sincerely hope that we are able to welcome any affected colleagues back to Ocado in the future.”

Meanwhile, Waitrose has revealed £1bn plans to treble the size of its online grocery operation, in preparation for ending its tie-up with Ocado in 2020.

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Under the move, in partnership with e-commerce platform Today Development Partners (TDP), Waitrose will develop three new state-of-the-art automated customer fulfilment centres (CFCs) over the next three years.

It follows Ocado striking a £1.5bn deal with Waitrose rival Marks & Spencer to drive its online offer.

Waitrose and Partners managing director Rob Collins said: “The plans represent a clear commitment to achieving rapid step-change in Waitrose.com’s capacity and capability as we build a modern, well-invested digital business that is fit for the future.

“The development of our new CFCs will triple our delivery capacity, bringing our well-loved service and delicious food to more customers across the UK and setting Waitrose.com on the path to becoming a £1bn turnover business.”