THE Bishop Auckland MP has thrown her weight behind a petition launched in the hope of showing a popular store how important it is to the town.

MP Helen Goodman believes an important element to improving the local economy is to ensure major retail stores remain in the town.

Rumours have been circulating around Bishop Auckland that Marks and Spencer may move to an out-of-town shopping complex in St Helen Auckland.

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At the end of last year the company extended its lease at its current site until 2013.

Resident Christine Atkinson, who worked for Marks and Spencer in Bishop Auckland for 30 years, is leading the campaign.

Mrs Goodman said: “Removing the store to an out-of-town development would deprive the town centre of an important focal point that attracts trade and customers to the area.

“The recent success in securing the Zurbaran paintings and the redevelopment work to transform Auckland Castle into a vibrant tourist destination promises to bring significant benefits to the area.

“However a crucial element of reviving the area as a successful tourist destination is the contribution prospective tourists will make to the local economy; retaining major retail stores like Marks and Spencer in the town centre is the best way to maximise this.”