Buxton is rallying round to prevent the loss of Marks & Spencer from its high street after the department chain’s shock announcement last week that it was proposing to close the store.
The Advertiser reported how the retail giant was consulting with 46 staff at the Spring Gardens store over the proposed closure as part of the retailer’s programme to reshape its UK store estate.
Its proposal would mean Buxton shoppers travelling 12 miles to Macclesfield for their nearest alternative M&S store.
Since the announcement High Peak MP Ruth George has written to M&S asking the firm to urgently reconsider its decision and an online petition against the move has gathered nearly 4,000 signatures.
The leader of High Peak Borough Council has expressed his disappointment over the plans and formed a taskforce to make the case for M&S to stay in the town.
Town champions Buxton Town Team are also urging the retailer to re-think its position with a nine-point argument in favour if the town’s commercial viability.
Meanwhile, another well-known high street name, jeweller H Samuel, confirmed this week that it will be closing its Buxton store next month.
Ruth George MP met with M&S on Tuesday when she was told staff at the store had been invited to make ‘counter-proposals’ on how the store could become sufficiently profitable to stay open.
The MP said 38 of the 100 stores earmarked for closure had already done so or were in the process of doing so - and ‘none of those have had any counter-proposals accepted’.
She said: “M&S mentioned that they tend to look for sites with free parking for all shoppers at least for a couple of hours and that’s something the council need to address urgently, alongside modern public toilets.”
A statement attached to a change.org petition titled Prevent the Proposed Closure of Marks & Spencer Buxton states the proposed closure has caused ‘much shock and disappointment’.
It contains a plea for the company to ‘give Buxton a chance - at least until the Crescent opens this year’.
“If M&S closes in Buxton this year the domino effect could be far reaching and catastrophic for the town”, the petition page adds.
Coun Tony Ashton, leader of the council, told how he was ‘disappointed’ at the news.
He said: “It would seem that the proposals do not take into account the continued investment that is happening in the town.
“Over £106m of investment has been made in the town’s built heritage and later this year the redeveloped Crescent will open bringing new high quality hotel accommodation and a state-of-the-art thermal spa - the only one of its kind in the north of England.
“Buxton has also attracted significant new housing development and through the council’s local plan 2,450 homes will be built bringing an additional £22.8 million household expenditure into the town.
“The council has also supported the development of a new visitor economy strategy for the town. This will build on the success of tourism which has seen visitor numbers increase by almost five per cent to over 4.5 million since 2016 and tourism expenditure contributing over £250 million to the local economy.
“Now is not the time to announce the closure of a popular shop in the town and put jobs at risk.”
A spokesperson for the council said it would continue to negotiate with new businesses who are investing in the town while persisting with a bid to the government’s Future High Street Fund for more investment in the town centre.
In a letter to M&S chief executive Steve Rowe, Buxton Town Team has pointed out how heritage-led finance had secured ‘over £90 million investment in the restoration of buildings of national importance’.
He also argued that the High Peak Borough Council Local Plan for 2,450 new homes by 2031 was estimated to generate ‘over £22m of consumer expenditure’.
Speaking yesterday, a spokesman for Marks and Spencer said the closure was at this stage still just a proposal and the retailer was still in consultation with colleagues.
For this reason the spokesman said it ‘would not be appropriate to comment further’.
However, the spokesman said the store chain was keen to engage with town leaders and welcomed feedback from members of the public.
A spokesperson for High Peak Borough Council said: “We have been in contact with M&S and set out the reasons why we feel that a closure is not warranted given the other investment that is happening in the town.
“We offered to consider any proposals to ensure that M&S remained in the town.”
n To make a comment, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 0333 0148440 or send a letter to Executive Team, Chester Business Park, Wrexham Road, Chester, CH4 9GA.
To sign the petition calling for M&S to remain, visit https://www.change.org/p/prevent-the-proposed-closure-of-marks-spencers-buxton.