Shoppers urged to join bid to bring M&S and Waitrose to Rugby town centre

Rugby First managing director Aftab Gaffar is supporting the initiative
Rugby First managing director Aftab Gaffar is supporting the initiative

Shoppers and businesses are being urged to contact Marks & Spencer and Waitrose in an effort to boost the town centre.

Rugby First wants the brands to help improve shopping in the town.

The organisation has asked its members to support the proposal of a Simply Food store in High Street to replace the current shop, which will close in September next year when a triple-sized branch opens at Elliott’s Field retail park, in Leicester Road, Rugby.

Aftab Gaffar, managing director of Rugby First, said: “Rugby town centre’s population is growing and I am convinced that a new, fresh-look M&S Simply Food store in the town centre will work.

“Rugby First has written to Marks & Spencer asking them for a meeting and to reconsider their decision as well as look at the Simply Food option – to date we have not had a response.

“I’m also aware that some local businesses, Rugby Borough Council and the local MP have written and voiced their concerns.

“Recently we have emailed town centre businesses asking them to do the same and I would encourage the public or any group, organisation or individual that has an interest to write to or email M&S and make their views known.

“Rugby First will continue to lobby on all fronts and we would ask others to do the same.”

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey also wants M&S to keep a store in the town centre and has started a petition after meeting with the company’s representatives in Parliament.

“A well supported petition will be a strong demonstration to M&S of public demand for such a store and residents in Rugby deserve to have their voices heard,” he said.

“It was deeply disappointing to find out that M&S had made the decision to leave the town centre and relocate to the re-developed Elliott’s Field retail park,” he added.

An M&S spokesman said the company wanted to secure its long term future in Rugby.

“We considered all of our options carefully. However, we believe Elliott’s Field retail park is the best location to serve our customers and, importantly, secures our long term future in Rugby,” he added.

Rugby First also hope to attract Waitrose into the town.

The supermarket announced plans to open a store on the old Bilton Social Club site in June this year.

“A new Waitrose store would fit well within the current mix and would certainly appeal to the town centre audience and wider community,” Mr Gaffar said.

“Rugby First would welcome the opportunity to talk with Waitrose and explore the opportunities that the town centre can offer them,” he added.

A Waitrose spokesperson said: “It’s important we find a site which is both feasible and sustainable so we can make a positive contribution to the area. It’s encouraging to hear that Rugby First would like Waitrose in the town centre, however we have looked at various sites in and around Rugby over the years and the only viable location for us is Bilton.

“We are continuing to work with the developer to evolve our plans for Bilton with the aim of submitting an application next year.”

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