THE Marks and Spencer store in Cwmbran shut its doors for the final time on Saturday.

The store has been a part of the Cwmbran Centre for a number of years, but was earmarked for closure in January as part of the company’s ‘radical transformation plan’, which saw 17 closures nationwide. Within a day, the store’s signs were removed, leaving the shopfront bare. Residents and representatives have been reacting to the store’s closure.

One resident, Lynda Clarkson, said: “Gutted it’s gone as it’s left a gap in the market in town. Many elderly people used M&S Food Hall to buy good quality, simple ready meals. My 87-year-old mother being one. I will now have to travel to Newport to buy them so that we can maintain her independence as we haven’t found the same quality or range in other stores or online suppliers. I bought clothes from there as liked the quality for the price.”

Another resident, Denise Williams, added: “It saddens me deeply.”

Abersychan resident Carole Cathcart said: “I have shopped in Marks for many years and am sorry to see it closed.

"Whatever the reason I feel it is a bit short-sighted to close this shop looking at Pontypool and Newport high streets and what the closures of shops have done for their foot traffic.

"I don’t want to travel miles to these faceless out of town complexes and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Not everybody has the luxury of a car or family to take them or a computer to shop online.”

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds and AM Lynne Neagle spoke out in support of the staff after the closure was announced.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said: “Along with Lynne Neagle AM and Cllr Anthony Hunt, leader of Torfaen CBC, I put the case directly to Marks and Spencer for at least maintaining a presence in Cwmbran, and I am very sorry that they have chosen to proceed with the final decision to close the store. This is such a difficult time for staff and their families.

“Our high streets clearly face great challenges, with online shopping becoming more and more popular, and UK Government austerity meaning that people have less money to spend.”

“I’ll continue to speak up for a positive strategy for our high streets going forward.”

Ms Neagle also expressed her disappointment.

She said: “M&S has been a key retailer in the town centre for many years, it is a great disappointment that despite the efforts of Nick Thomas-Symonds, Anthony Hunt and myself, M&S feel unable to keep the Cwmbran branch open. It is a massive blow for the staff and the local community.”

When the closure was announced, an M&S spokeswoman said: “We hope to see lots of customers continuing to shop with us online and at M&S Newport Retail Park where some of the team will be relocating. We’d like to thank each and every member of the team for the contribution they’ve made to serving customers at M&S Cwmbran.”

A spokesperson for Cwmbran Centre said: “We are sorry to confirm the news that the branch of M&S in the Cwmbran Centre closed on Saturday, May 4.

"Despite the challenging retail market, Cwmbran Centre is one of the leading retail destinations in South Wales and continues to attract interest from local, national and international brands.

"We are committed to ensuring this remains the case and look forward to sharing further updates in due course.”