An impassioned plea has been made to the chief executive officer of Marks & Spencer to reconsider plans to close its store in a Welsh town, a decision which community leaders have described as "devastating". The food and clothing high street giant has announced it intends to shut its location at Green Street in Neath in May.

In a statement, M&S regional manager Allison Jenkins stated "shopping habits were changing" and that it "needed to focus on investment on the right stores in the right places". She described it as a "tough decision" that was being made to "keep pace with the demands of customers".

A petition created against the closure has amassed 2,200 signatures in a matter of weeks. Now, in a joint letter to the store's chief executive officer, Stuart Machin, Carolyn Harris MP, and Jeremy Miles MS have requested an urgent meeting to address the proposed closure, highlighting the effect it would have on the local economy and job market going forward. For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter.

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The letter read: "Since the announcement was made last month that the store would be shutting down in May 2024, we have been speaking to residents about the impact that this will have on our town. A petition created in opposition to the closure has amassed over 2,200 signatures in just a few short weeks, and local people have voiced their disappointment and their concern for the wider community.

"Marks and Spencer has been one of the leading retailers and employers in the town centre in recent years. The effect of the closure on the local economy and job market will be devastating. It will draw more people away from the town, which is of real concern to other businesses, particularly smaller independent retailers who rely heavily on the passing trade.

"From the conversations we have had in recent weeks, it is clear that the overwhelming consensus amongst local residents is that Marks and Spencer is an asset to the town that needs to remain. We therefore urge you to listen to your customers and reconsider the decision to close the store. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you, as a priority, to share with you the concerns that have been raised with us and to discuss what can be done to reverse the decision for the benefit of the local community." Marks & Spencer has been contacted for comment. Get the best user experience with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android.