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Shop staff in Darent Valley Hospital told to pack up to pave way for new Marks and Spencer store

It is believed shop staff at Darent Valley Hospital have been given their marching orders as bosses make way for a new Marks and Spencer store.

It is not yet known which shops are to face the chop, but it has been reported that staff have been given only a month to get their affairs in order.

M&S will be the third brand name to open in the reception area of the Dartford hospital, with Costa and WHSmith already trading there. There are six stores in total at the facility.

Darent Valley Hospital. Picture: Nick Johnson
Darent Valley Hospital. Picture: Nick Johnson

The decision to bring in the high street giant was made by Hospital Company Dartford Ltd who own and maintain the building, although are not responsible for providing medical services.

A Darent Valley spokesman confirmed the hospital was "in talks" with M&S but nothing had been made concrete.

He said: "Talks are taking place between M&S and the Hospital Company Dartford Ltd to see whether it is a possible option for them to open a unit at the hospital."

The news is sure to make waves with shoppers and traders as there is a huge M&S branch less than two miles away in Bluewater, which can be seen from hospital wards.

Bluewater shopping centre. Picture: Nick Johnson
Bluewater shopping centre. Picture: Nick Johnson

The announcement comes less than six months after the high street institution closed down its store in neighbouring Gravesend.

M&S opened in the town in 1914 but closed its doors last September, after 100 years of trading, because bosses claimed it was no longer “financially viable”.

The Messenger’s Save Our M&S campaign to keep the store open saw nearly 2,000 people sign our petition.

Campaigning grandmother Vera Purll, 93, who shopped at the branch for decades, even buying an outfit to wear on her honeymoon, collected more than 800 signatures herself.

Sadly, it was not enough.

Vera Purll, tells Marc O'Connor, Marks and Spencer's regional manager about her customer experience with M&S with Bob Bounds, Gravesend Messenger editor
Vera Purll, tells Marc O'Connor, Marks and Spencer's regional manager about her customer experience with M&S with Bob Bounds, Gravesend Messenger editor

A man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he knew someone who worked at one of the stores earmarked for closure in the hospital.

He called the decision “nonsensical”.

He said: “There’s three shops involved that have been told to basically get out by the end of the month because Marks and Spencer is going to open a new shop.

“They’re going to refurbish that whole area for the new shop. When you walk into the hospital it will be on the right-hand side.

“What you’ve got to imagine is that all these businesses and the people that run them could now go bust because they have nowhere else to go.

“The people who work there will have to find new jobs as well.

Darent Valley Hospital
Darent Valley Hospital

“M&S are going to spend all that money [on a new store], when they could have kept the shop in Gravesend open, and there is an M&S store just down the road in Bluewater.”

The man explained people working in the shops were concerned about their future.

He said: “They feel upset because they’re going to be losing their jobs and their incomes. How would you feel? There’s just no need for M&S to be there. It’s nonsensical

“There was a rumour in the hospital for about a month but it was just Chinese whispers.

“Apparently last week or the end of last week the person in charge visited the shopkeepers and said 'You’ve got until the end of the month’.”

Marks and Spencer were not available for comment.

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