Hundreds of staff at Bradford supermarket giant Morrisons have begun the mammoth task of moving to the company's new headquarters.

The multi-million-pound building shows how far the company has come from the market stall Sir Ken Morrison's father set up at John Street Market in 1899.

The 331,000 square foot building in Gain Lane, Thornbury, which is to be the central base for the company's national retail operations, will eventually house 15,000 staff.

The phased move from current HQ Hilmore House in Thornton Road in Bradford should be completed by July.

The name Hilmore' will be retained because it is a tribute to Sir Ken's mother Hilda.

Morrisons property director Roger Owen said: "The new Hilmore House realises our ambition to bring our central support team together in a head office purposely designed to serve the business needs of our enlarged group.

"This landmark building, with state-of- the-art facilities, provides comfortable, practical accommodation that will enable greater efficiency in supporting our stores, helping to ensure we continue to offer the best in quality, value and service to our customers."

History will be a central feature of the new headquarters. The staff canteen has been named JD's in memory of John Dowd, who was managing director between 1997 and 2002.

Photographs of local attractions and locations are displayed around the building and a montage of historic images of both city and company makes a striking feature in the main reception area.

Morrisons said it had put a particular emphasis on the environment when constructing the new HQ which at three storeys and equivalent in size to three football pitches is ten times the size of its predecessor in Thornton Road. To minimise the effect it has on the environment, rain water is collected underground and used for sanitation.

Paper and plastics are recycled, lighting is controlled by sensors to ensure energy efficiency and excess heat from the glazed atrium is re-used to help warm the rest of the building.

The company has also had a hand in trying to reduce the amount of traffic congestion the massive influx of Morrisons staff will have on the Gain Lane area. It has adopted a "green travel plan" which will encourage staff to share cars and use public transport.

The building was designed by Bradford based architects Alan Eden, Michael Hellawell & Associates and the building undertaken by Shepherd Construction, with many local sub-contractors also used.

Morrisons has struggled somewhat since 2004's massive expansion and takeover of hundreds of Safeway stores.

The firm remains Bradford's largest employer and one of the UK's premier companies. It is the country's fourth largest supermarket chain, operates 378 stores and employs more than 120,000 people nationally, including more than 5,000 in Bradford.

The old Thornton Road office building, home since 1971, is to be sold.

e-mail: richard.woodward