Nearly 2,500 people have signed Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western’s petition to save M&S stores in Warwick and Leamington.
The Labour MP launched a campaign to salvage the town centre stores after the company announced they would close last week.
M&S said it will be shutting the ‘Simply Food’ store in Market Street in Warwick and the clothing store in the Royal Priors Shopping Centre in Leamington.
The business said the Foodhall on the Parade in Leamington would remain open.
Mr Western says he aims to send a strong message to M&S which promised to retain the Warwick and Leamington branches even if the firm opened a long-expected department store in the Leamington Shopping Park.
He has called on the retail giant not to turn its back on Warwick residents and on the town’s precious but precarious high street.
He says the Warwick store is especially important as it is an anchor for the town centre, attracting visitors while being easily accessible.
The new retail park department store will open in the unit previously occupied by Debenhams and the Foodhall is due to open next to it.
The Foodhall gained planning approval in March 2019 after an appeal.
Warwick resident Mary Pickles, an 87-year-old living alone, told Mr Western: “It fills me with real sadness to hear that M&S in Warwick is going to close.
“I have mobility problems and it is a relief to know I can get the bus into Warwick town centre and get off by M&S.
“It has been almost a lifeline for me for a very long time - and we should all object and avert its closure.
“I don’t have anyone else who can do shopping for me, so to have M&S so near and accessible has been wonderful.
“The loss will be very hurtful to many people of any age but particularly those of my age.”
Mr Western has sent a letter to M&S bosses hoping to persuade the firm of the strength of feeling against the closure – and to overturn the decision.
He said: “It is hugely significant that 2,350 people have already signed my petition which has been live for less than a week.
“Likewise, I have heard from numerous concerned residents – mostly elderly – who rely on the town centre M&S in Warwick because of its accessibility and proximity to the bus station.
“Travelling to the Shires is simply not an option for most people – while public transport options are not good enough.
“The loss of the M&S store in Warwick is a particularly severe blow to the vitality of the town centre.
“M&S bosses must not forget they promised Warwick and Leamington residents none of the town centre stores would be lost even if the new department store opened.
“They should honour that promise and return the loyalty they have received from Warwick residents.”
During a public consultation about the plans to open a new M&S department store in the retail park, the firm sent out a leaflet to residents in 2017.
In one section, it reads: “The M&S Foodhall would be in addition to the Leamington Spa Town Centre stores and the Warwick Town Centre Foodhall, which would not be affected by the proposed new store.”
This was also highlighted by Warwick Town Council and Warwick Chamber of Trade who have also voiced their concerns of the closures of the Warwick store.
The M&S department store in the Leamington Retail Park is set to open its Foodhall in the summer, at which point the Warwick store will close, followed by a clothing and home department in the autumn.
To sign Mr Western’s petition go to: https://mattwestern.org/campaign/save-our-ms-petition-to-prevent-closure-of-warwick-and-leamington-stores/#petitonM&S have been approached for a comment