Retail giant decides against Stowmarket

RETAIL giant Marks & Spencer today announced it has decided against opening a much-anticipated new store in Stowmarket. The move has been branded a bitter blow to the town, whose mayor Frank Whittle recently said it needs more retailers and no more charity shops and estate agents.

RETAIL giant Marks & Spencer today announced it has decided against opening a much-anticipated new store in Stowmarket.

The move has been branded a bitter blow to the town, whose mayor Frank Whittle recently said it needs more retailers and no more charity shops and estate agents.

However, the community's MP David Ruffley said it was not the end of the dream to bring the group to the town and as Stowmarket grows, it could be that they will be wooed back.

The major scheme at the former Seaman's builders' yard would have created more than 110 jobs as part of a new retail development.

The site was expected to have been taken up in part by an M&S Simply Food store, creating up to 35 full-time jobs and 17 part-time positions, with a further 40 full-time and 20 part-time jobs with two other unspecified retailers as part of the multi-million pound project.

A spokeswoman for M&S said in a statement: “We are actively looking for new sites to develop for our Simply Food offer and have been looking at Stowmarket for a while.

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“However, there are currently no plans to open a store in the town.”

Senior executives at the company indicated that the population in the Stowmarket area and sales estimates were insufficient to make a new store viable, but have said they will continue to keep watch on the progress the town makes as it builds new housing.

Andrew Stringer, a local businessman and a mid Suffolk district councillor whose authority granted planning permission for the site, said: “They have definitely pulled out and it is a bitter blow.

“But there is no reason why Stowmarket should not attract another quality retailer into the town.”

And MP David Ruffley, who represents the community and has been liaising with the retail giant, said M&S have not ruled out coming to the town in the future.

He said: “This is a massive wake up call to the town and district councils responsible for Stowmarket. “It's time to get serious and I will do what I can to get a new, quality retailer in.

A spokeswoman for the district council said: “Mid Suffolk District Council are in the process of liaising with a number of national retailers. These discussions are currently commercially confidential.”

The authority has now commissioned a strategic report for Stowmarket that is examining the retail potential in the area.

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