Gravesend town centre is outperforming its rivals with the latest footfall figures showing it is among the best performing in the UK.
But the good news comes with the bad news that M&S could close as early as next month.
It follows the statutory 30 day consultation with staff who are understood to have been offered either redeployment or a redundancy package.
Year-on-year figures up to last week showed Gravesend town centre footfall was 10.4% up compared with a rise of 4.2% in the south east and only 2.4% for the whole country.
Footfall for the week from June 16 was 198,009 with the busiest day being Saturday with 39,493 visitors. This is up on the previous two years.
Council leader John Burden said: “The latest figures give the lie to a lot of the doom and gloom around.
"It makes the decision to close M&S all the more baffling and disappointing.
“It also underlines that Saturday parking charges in council car parks have not deterred people from visiting town.”
At last week’s council meeting, another attempt was made to bring free parking back to the town centre on Saturdays.
Shadow council leader Cllr John Cubitt said: "The council has enough money in its reserves account to immediately bring back free Saturday parking and it’s now time for Labour to walk the talk".
Cllr Burden added: “There is not, and never has been, any evidence that the free parking experiment had any effect on shopping in town.
“And the latest analysis shows that Gravesham’s council car parks are the cheapest in Kent.”
Following a meeting with Gravesham council, three main reasons were given for the closure of Marks and Spencer:
Cllr Burden said: “Three points were made in the meeting.
"One was that trading wasn’t particularly strong; the cost of refurbishing the building because of the asbestos.
"The third issue was keeping the food court because the chillers will need to be replaced in January because of the new EU ruling and that would be a significant cost.
“My problem with this is they should have been doing these refurbishments over the years, not looking at it all as one problem now.
"I think they’ve been very short-sighted and they’ve let the town down.”
See tomorrow's Gravesend Messenger for details on our snub to hand over our petition.
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