Bunnings is turning up the heat on DIY rival B&Q by ramping up its pilot store plans.

The Australian business, which entered the market after buying Homebase in February last year, is hitting the accelerator on its store conversion programme.

The Wesfarmers-owned chain will now have 20 Bunnings Warehouses by the end of 2017, twice the number it had previously planned.

Bunnings revealed its new target as it opened its fourth Bunnings Warehouse on these shores in Milton Keynes – its largest in the UK to-date.

The 90,000 square foot store, on the site of the former Homebase in Snowdon Drive, employs 140 staff, including 88 newly-created full and part-time roles.

Today’s move to ramp up store openings will create more than 1000 new jobs.

The retailer plans to open another store in Folkestone in July, before Homebase stores in Thanet, Sittingbourne, Kent and Basildon Vange are converted into Bunnings sites.

Up to three of the next 16 pilot stores will be on newly acquired sites, rather than Homebase conversions. Bunnings plans to complete its first new-build in the next 12 months too – constructing a Bunnings Warehouse from the ground up.

The DIY giant hailed the doubling of its store pilot scheme as “a major step” in its assault on the UK’s £38bn home improvement and garden market.

It comes weeks after Bunnings poached B&Q’s Damian McGloughlin as its new chief operating officer and appointed David Haydon – another former Kingfisher exec – to run Homebase.

Bunnings UK and Ireland managing director PJ Davis said: “Our decision to extend the pilot programme reflects the positive reaction we’ve seen from customers to the stores we’ve opened so far.

“Increasing the number of pilot stores to 20 will give us the opportunity to test the concept in new geographies, with different demographics, across a range of store sizes.

“We are determined to combine the best of Bunnings Warehouse with what UK consumers want. The success of the pilots still remains a precursor to additional investment.”