I am delighted that Debenhams is staying open in Barrow.

The first thing I did when it was announced that stores were closing up and down the country was to go online and check the list. I was so relieved to see that Barrow wasn’t listed as one of the store earmarked for closure. Naturally my thoughts and prayers are with those people whose stores are closing and they are now faced with losing their jobs.

Sadly Debenhams like many other shops that have closed on our high streets are often victims of austerity as well as victims of more and more people purchasing their goods on line. The old saying of use it or lose is often true when a store closes, it’s a question of economics.

If people are not coming through the store doors to shop, preferring to make their purchase from the comfort of their arm chairs at home, then it is inevitable that the stores will lose money.

It's simply not good business sense to keep a shop open that is not attracting the custom. Sadly that has a knock on effect on the whole high street. I recall during my time in Barrow the building of Portland Walk and how that regenerated the area bringing much needed shops stores and employment.

There was real buzz on the day that Debenhams opened in Barrow.

The feeling was that the department store added a touch of class to the area. I still recall the uniform commissioners on the door during the first few weeks of opening; it gave Barrow the lift that it badly needed during a time of recession and down sizing of Vickers’ shipyard.

My wife and I often shopped there and visited their restaurant. Other stores/ shops have come and gone in Portland Walk. They like so many have fallen victim to austerity and the changing shopping habits of the consumer.

My plea to my former town is simply this. If you want to give Debenhams and other shops and stores a future and maintain the buzz of the high street, then stop shopping online, get out your arm chairs and enjoy the experience of actually seeing and handling the merchandise. It’s a great way of getting out and about, meeting friends and supporting the local economy.

The future of Barrow high street is in the hands of the people. If you value what you've got then fight to maintain not just Debenhams, but all of your favourite stores, because it's not just the high street that’s at stake but the whole of the economy of the town that is dependant upon the employment of those who work in them.

Father Mark A Edwards MBE

Former Clergymen of Barrow, 1996-2008