Battle to save Felixstowe M&S is lost – campaigners 'bitterly disappointed'
PUBLISHED: 14:57 06 February 2019 | UPDATED: 14:57 06 February 2019
Bosses at Marks and Spencer have this afternoon confirmed that the company’s Felixstowe store will definitely close.
The news is a bitter blow for campaigners – including civic leaders, politicians and residents – who fought to save the store, a key shop in the resort’s town centre and one of its biggest outlets.
In a letter to Suffolk Coastal council, David Leach, M&S government affairs manager, said the store in Hamilton Road will close on April 27.
The shop – widely believed to be the smallest M&S high street store in the country – has been part of the town for 80 years.
More than than 8,000 residents and visitors signed a petition asking for it to be kept and turned into a food only shop.
Mr Leach said: “We are continuing to consult on the people impact of the closure and colleagues will either be redeployed or offered redeployment to other M&S stores before redundancy is considered.
“In any case, we will have detailed discussions with colleagues in the coming weeks to determine what is best for their individual circumstances.
“We recognise that you will be very disappointed by the store closure, but we are convinced it is the right commercial decision for M&S for the reasons we have previously explained.”
Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development, was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision. He had joined MP Therese Coffey and Felixstowe mayor and deputy mayor, Graham Newman and Tracey Green, in a frank exchange of views with M&S chiefs at the House of Commons.
Mr Holdcroft said: “Despite saying it was consulting with people over the proposal, this appears to have been a done deal from the beginning, as Marks and Spencer has blatantly ignored the heartfelt protests of local people, who have campaigned vigorously to keep this shop open.
“What is particularly disappointing is that Marks and Spencer has also chosen to discount the strong business case that we have made for the shop to remain open in some form, based on the predicted continued growth of Felixstowe’s economy. We are committed to maintaining a vibrant High Street in Felixstowe.
“As a town, Felixstowe is very much on the up, with record numbers of visitors coming this year, housing development being planned and businesses investing in the area, so this bucks the positive economic trend in the area.
“As a council, Suffolk Coastal will continue to work with local businesses, as well as our partners in the town and county councils, to develop Felixstowe and maintain its growing economy, including exploring through Felixstowe Forward the concept of setting up a Business Improvement District to increase the footfall in the town centre.
“I also hope that this prime site will not stand empty for long, but will be snapped up by a more far-sighted new business.”