So M& S is closing – in spite of many valiant protests from the community and local businesses. Not really surprising in this climate with retail being squeezed by business rates and a change of shopping habits re the internet. What was surprising was the reaction by Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet member with responsibility for Economic Development.
Given that the local community have also raised massive protest against the possible development of 3000 houses pus a huge logistics park at Kirton, and the relocation of the Leisure Centre – all falling on deaf ears at SCDC, who have unanimously passed the contentious Local Plan.
This is what Cllr Holdcroft said
“I am bitterly disappointed to hear that Marks and Spencer intends to go ahead with its plan to close its store in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, from the end of April. Despite saying it was consulting with people over the proposal, this appears to have been a done deal from the beginning, as Marks and Spencer has blatantly ignored the heartfelt protests of local people, who have campaigned vigorously to keep this shop open.
What is particularly disappointing is that Marks and Spencer has also chosen to discount the strong business case that we have made for the shop to remain open in some form, based on the predicted continued growth of Felixstowe’s economy. We are committed to maintaining a vibrant High Street in Felixstowe.
As a town, Felixstowe is very much on the up, with record numbers of visitors coming this year, housing development being planned and businesses investing in the area, so this bucks the positive economic trend in the area. As a council, Suffolk Coastal will continue to work with local businesses, as well as our partners in the Town and County Councils, to develop Felixstowe and maintain its growing economy, including exploring through Felixstowe Forward the concept of setting up a Business Improvement District to increase the footfall in the town centre. I also hope that this prime site will not stand empty for long, but will be snapped up by a more far-sighted new business.”
This is just one business – albeit a much loved and important one. The Local Plan will drastically alter the nature of Felixstowe through over development – and deprive us of a chunk of AONB land, while moving the Leisure Centre to a place most people think is ill advised. Maybe Councillors should stop decrying the bosses of M&S and start listening to local people’s views themselves.