Community leaders have expressed their disappointment that a major retailer in Barrow has announced it will be closing its doors at the end of the year.

Marks & Spencer bosses said they had taken the 'difficult decision' to shut its Dalton Road branch.

The news has been met with sadness and concern from a number of key figures in the Barrow community.

Mayor Bill McEwan said: “This is a hammer blow to the high-street and the town.

“It is especially a blow for older people in the area who may be less able to get to the new store in Ulverston or access the Marks and Spencer online.

“Marks and Spencer is one of our biggest stores in town so it is a massive blow.

“Plus it leaves another empty unit and we have enough of those as it is.”

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John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: “This is deeply sad and disappointing news, both for staff and the thousands of loyal customers for many of whom visiting M&S on Dalton Road is an important part of their weekly routine.

“It was clear from talking to the company’s head office that there was practically zero chance of getting this decision reversed, particularly given the fact that Furness is one of the few areas in which M&S is proposing to open a food hall nearby as the high street store closed.

“I hope as many as possible of the staff facing redundancy can take up the option of continued employment in the new Ulverston branch.

“In Barrow, we must turn our attention to attracting a new firm to trade on the site. After many difficult years, there is an exciting vision for change in Barrow town centre which ought to be attractive to a new owner.”

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Dave Pidduck, leader of Barrow Council, said: “It is disappointing news, and a decision made by those in London not in Barrow.

"I think this is bad news for both Barrow and Ulverston as the new store will suck trade out of the town.

“Never the less, we will sit down with members of the BID and make plans.

“We shall try and contact members of the Marks and Spencer hierarchy and see if there is anything we can do to reverse the decision.

“It is a shame as Barrow is a town on the up, with work guaranteed going forward with the production of submarines. Sometimes I do worry that decisions made in London about areas like Barrow. This is obviously disappointing news.”

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A M&S spokeswoman said: “Proposing to close M&S Barrow was a difficult decision. Over the past few weeks we’ve been consulting with our colleagues and, following this rigorous process, the decision has been made to close our store at the end of this year.”

The new Ulverston Foodhall will offer clothing and home products via Click & Collect. Exact dates have not been given for the closure of the Barrow store or the opening of the new Foodhall in Ulverston.