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Debenhams creditors agree rescue plan that will close Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone and Chatham stores

By Sam Williams

Creditors today placed the final nail in the coffin for 22 Debenhams stores scheduled to close next year - including four in Kent.

The announcement comes after bosses agreed to a rescue plan for struggling Debenhams, the UK's largest department store.

In total, 22 stores will close next year, including ones in Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone and Chatham, but more are set to shut in the future.

Debenhams in Ashford
Debenhams in Ashford

Around 1,200 jobs have been put at risk by the plan, known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), which would allow it to reduce rents with landlords and close shops.

The company told investors: "Debenhams Group Holdings Ltd confirms that the creditors of the group have approved the CVA proposals presented by Debenhams Retail Limited and Debenhams Properties Limited as announced on 26 April, with a majority significantly above the required threshold of 75% on each proposal."

Executive chairman Terry Duddy added: "I am grateful to our suppliers, our pension stakeholders and our landlords who have overwhelmingly backed our store restructuring plans.

KMTV reports on the announcement of the CVA plan last month

"We will continue to work to preserve as many stores and jobs as possible through this process.

"This is a further important step to give us the platform to deliver a turnaround."

The chain went into a so-called pre-pack administration last month.

All Debenhams stores are proposed to remain open during 2019, including through Christmas peak trading.

Debenhams in Canterbury
Debenhams in Canterbury

The full list of stores expected to closure are: Altrincham, Ashford, Birmingham Fort, Canterbury, Chatham, Eastbourne, Folkestone, Great Yarmouth, Guildford, Kirkcaldy, Orpington, Slough, Southport, Southsea, Staines, Stockton, Walton, Wandsworth, Welwyn Garden City, Wimbledon, Witney, Wolverhampton.

The closures will cause major disruption for town centres affected.

Speaking about the impending closure of Chatham's Debenhams ward councillor Vince Maple previously said: "It's a devastating blow for Chatham, it's incredibly sad.

"There are people who come to Chatham just to use the Debenhams.

Debenhams in Canterbury (9196392)
Debenhams in Canterbury (9196392)

"The footfall onto the high street will be impacted and that is something I am very concerned about, and how that will impact the other shops on the High Street."

Shopper Daniel Latter from Ashford said it would be a shame for Ashford to lose its store. He said: "They keep closing these shops but we have so many barbers, estate agents and cafes in the town. What are they going to put in there?

"I think there'll be a hole in the town centre."

A petition was set up after it was announced that Folkestone's store could be converted into a cinema.

The petition reads: "Folkestone and Hythe have very quickly released plans to turn our beautiful Debenhams building to a cinema, do we really need that when we have our lovely Silver Screen cinema? No we don't. The building could be used for so much more!"

Plans are also being put into place to convert the Canterbury site once Debenhams closed in 2020.

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