Plans to close Marks & Spencer’s store in Castleford could have a detrimental impact on the town centre.
That is the message from John Munday, chairman of Castleford Town Centre Partnership, who says the town must now create a new identity to attract more shoppers.
M&S announced plans to open a new store at the £135m Five Towns Park, which will be built next to junction 32 of the M62, close to the Xscape leisure complex in Glass Houghton, earlier this month.
As part of the proposals, the retailer will close its store on Carlton Street and relocate to the new development when it has been built.
Mr Munday said: “The closure of a major key retailer in the town is depressing. It has been there a long time and is part of the town’s fabric, so for it to close is a real shame.
“It is going to have an impact on residents who have a lack of transportation to get to the new park and on shoppers coming into the town. They will have used M&S for years and it is a really disappointing move by the company.”
Mr Munday now wants to meet with councillors and community groups to share ideas on how to improve the town centre.
He said: “We know the M&S store is definitely going to close and there is nothing we can do about that.
“This maybe an opportunity for Castleford to redefine how it looks or to do something different like becoming a craft based town.
“You visit town centres across the country and they are all the same. We have to do something different to bring new retailers in and get the town centre to stand out.”
Helen Nash, head of UK property at M&S, said the new store at the Five Towns Park would help the company to significantly improve the service its offers in the town.
Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford Yvette Cooper MP said closing the Marks & Spencer’s store in Castleford was “really bad news for the town centre”.
She added: “M&S is always busy so this decision makes no sense. They run small stores in service stations, railway stations and in towns across the country so surely they can keep a shop open.
“I am contacting M&S to urge them to think again. Putting a big store in the new Five Towns Park is not an acceptable alternative.
“They will be different kinds of shops, just as the M&S outlet store in Junction 32 is not an alternative to shops in Castleford.
“The developers assured us there would be strict conditions in place to prevent the new development attracting shops. We need M&S, Wakefield Council and Lateral to get together to make sure the town centre is protected.”