BARNSLEY Council bosses have reiterated their commitment to invest elsewhere other than the Glass Works after Marks and Spencer ended its 90-year presence in the town centre this week.

The retail giant announced last year that it would close its Queen Street store and was readying a move to Peel Retail Park, on Harborough Hill Road, where it will open a foodhall store with 60 per cent more space.

The town centre unit officially closed its doors on Monday, with the new 12,000sq ft store opening to customers the following day.

The move leads the wider town centre, outside of the Glass Works, with another empty unit - with the former Sports Direct store, who moved metres down the road into the new shopping complex, also vacant.

From July to September the town centre occupancy rate stood at 86 per cent - though this will now decrease.

Coun Robin Franklin, cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture, told the Chronicle that despite the high street constantly changing, the town centre is in a good position.

He added: “Our town centre has had significant regeneration over the past few years, and we’ve invested to make sure our high streets are thriving.

“From July to September we reported an 86 per cent occupancy rate across our town centre, and we currently have an occupancy rate of 88 per cent in the Glass Works.

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“In addition to this, our current indoor market occupancy rate is at 92 per cent.

“The high street is constantly changing, but we’re now seeing the success in the wider town of combining retail, leisure, dining, health and learning.

“Our free family-friendly events all have achieved higher footfall this year, compared to 2022, and these town-wide events are aimed at bringing people from all over the region into our town centre, to celebrate and to support our fantastic local businesses, increasing footfall to all areas, whilst creating a vibrant atmosphere that everyone can be involved with.

“This winter we’re holding our Christmas Market, supporting local vendors and businesses, with stalls from local food and drink producers to festive gifts, crafts and homeware, and the ever-popular street food vendors.”

M and S bosses have said their new store is an ‘investment’ into the town.

Graham Whitfield, store manager at the unit, said: “The store is an exciting investment in the future of M and S in Barnsley, and I can’t wait for our customers to explore all the new features that the store has to offer.

“With our amazing new, fresh market feel Foodhall, we really do have the best of M and S here for everyone to enjoy.”

They added that the store represents a significant investment in the local economy and follows the retailer’s announcement that it plans to invest circa £500m in its store rotation programme, creating over 3,400 new jobs nationwide.

Mark Whittaker, executive director of Peel Retail and Leisure - the store’s new home, added: “We are very proud to be working in partnership with M and S to bring their exceptional new Foodhall to our Barnsley Retail Park.

“Barnsley Retail Park is a hub for our local community offering a great selection of the best brands in one convenient location whilst supporting local job creation and opportunities for the area.”