A LAST ditch effort to stop one of the biggest names on the high street from leaving the city centre has failed.

Durham City councillors David Freeman and Richard Ormerod had written to the chief executive of Marks and Spencer’s with a plea for the retailer not to abandon it’s Silver Street store.

Following several years of speculation, the company announced in January that it would be closing its clothing and food outlet in the city centre in April.

Cllr Freeman said: “It is very concerning that we could have a large empty retail unit in Durham City centre. There are already rumours of other retailers considering their position in the city centre.

“It is disappointing for us in Durham that Marks and Spencer will not reconsider their closure, it is wrong for Durham City and I believe wrong for them financially.”

The councillors for Elvet and Gilesgate had sent a ten-point letter to M&S chief executive Steve Rowe highlighting major developments currently underway in the city, future growth in student numbers living centrally and a lack of competition from other food retailers.

Cllr Freeman added: “We will likely have more people working (and spending money) in the city centre within the next two years and houses and flats are being built or have planning permission for residential use as well as student use which will lead to more shoppers within a ten minute walk of the shopping centre.”

Responding, David Leach, the company’s government affairs manager, said: “In the case of Durham, I can assure you that the decision has been given a great deal of consideration and follows detailed examination of all relevant commercial and financial data relating to the store’s current performance and future potential.

“You will appreciate that I am unable to go into specific details, but in broad terms we consider factors such as trends in sales and profitability; cost of operating the store; modernisation work required; property details such as lease terms, rents and business rates; and how the store fits with our broader retail offer in the local area and our ability to recapture sales.”

He added that it was considered unfeasible to continue as a food hall because of the investment needed to modernise the unit.

When it closes, it is likely to be one of four empty units in Silver Street, following the recent closures of East and Krispy Kreme, and Greenwoods, which has been empty since last year.

M&S, which has a bigger shop at the Arnison Centre, in Pity Me, says all staff at the Silver Street branch have been offered jobs nearby.