MARKS and Spencer today confirmed that its town centre branch at Warrington is among six set to close.
The company said it is consulting staff about the proposed closure of the Golden Square store – and pledged that no staff would lose their jobs.
It is believed about 380 staff members are affected – including about 100 at Warrington.
The announcement comes after months of rumours – and less than a year after the opening of the M&S food store at Stockton Heath.
The major M&S store at Gemini is not affected by the proposals.
Cllr Tony McCarthy, chairman of Warrington Borough Council’s development management committee confirmed today that at the time M&S were granted planning consent for the Gemini store they gave an undertaking that the Golden Square store would not be affected.
But he added: “I was not on the planning committee then so I am not sure whether that undertaking was for a limited number of years or in perpetuity.
“I will be looking into exactly what was agreed at the time.
“I am not surprised by this. So many people are shopping online now and younger people in particular do not seem to be going to Marks and Spencer.”
Cllr Terry O’Neill, leader of the borough council, said: “It is regrettable that one of the key establishments in our retail sector is taking this decision. We are very disappointed in the decision and we will be seeking urgent discussions with the Marks and Spencer management, to see if all or part of the store can be retained for the benefit of Warrington people.
“It is really important that we impress upon the decision makers our ambitious plans for Warrington, which are progressing at a rapid pace. We are investing over £100m in the retail heart of our town and taking steps to repopulate our town centre, as part of our New City plans. This work will create a vibrant, welcoming, diverse and friendly town centre, for generations to come. Marks and Spencer should be part of that and that’s why we believe their decision to close, at the start of this renaissance, is the wrong one.
“We will also be checking the planning documents in relation to the Marks and Spencer store at Gemini retail park and any conditions which were attached to that regarding the town centre store.”
Despite the closures announced today, M&S has also confirmed it has plans to open 34 food stores and two clothing stores across the UK in the next six months.
The loss of the Golden Square store is likely to have a major impact on Warrington town centre – and on Golden Square.
People living in the south of the borough are thought to make little use of the M&S at Gemini – particularly because of the congested road system in North Warrington.
One Lymm resident said: “It will be easier to go to other branches of M&S outside Warrington than to go to Gemini. I have only been there twice since it opened and I found the traffic a nightmare.”