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Retail giant's exit sparks town fears

The exit caps a miserable new year for Accrington’s retail offer after Marks and Spencer and DIY chain Homebase both announced they were closing flagship stores.

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Major concerns have been raised over Accrington’s continued ‘downward spiral’, after Morrisons became the third high street retailer in less than a month to announce it would be leaving the town.

The exit caps a miserable new year for Accrington’s retail offer after Marks and Spencer and DIY chain Homebase both announced they were closing flagship stores.

Town leaders reacted with disappointment and raised concern for the future of Accrington town centre.

Conservative group leader Peter Britcliffe said: “It’s yet another blow for Accrington, when will it end?

“We seem to be at the end of the recession but the stores are falling like dominoes.

“The fact is that Accrington town centre appears to be in a downward spiral.”

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones bemoaned historic planning decisions which are now impacting on the vibrancy of the town.

He said: “With hindsight there has been poor decisions, for example most people think the removal of the concrete market was a bad one, I was opposed to it at the time.

“The loss of the cinema and swimming pool have also impacted on the footfall, anchors like that which bring people in are important.

“Moving the centre away from the Abbey Street and Church Street areas to the Arndale has also taken away some of the authenticity that Accrington once had as a quaint Victorian town.”

Mr Jones added: “I think there is also a change in retail trends, but there is a real drive and determination to return Accrington to its former glory.”

Morrisons told the Observer a consultation had begun with staff at the Eastgate store but could not confirm at this stage how many staff have been affected.

A consultation on the plans is expected to take around 45 days.

A Morrisons spokesman said: “We have looked extremely carefully at whether the store can be turned around but unfortunately we cannot see a way of making it viable.

“We are therefore proposing its closure. We are consulting with colleagues and unions to reduce the risk of redundancies and we are looking at ways of redeploying colleagues around our business.”

Mike Damms, chief executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said there seemed to be a “general decline” in the town.

He added: “Accrington has a number of manufacturers who are doing very well, but the town centre seems to be accumulating trouble. It is a real challenge that needs addressing.”

Morrisons have yet to confirm a date for when the East Gate store will shut up shop.