Owen’s Pontypridd Observer column 22/07/2015

I know how concerned everybody in our community is about the potential closure of our Marks & Spencer on Ponty high street. 

On Friday, Mick Antoniw AM, the Council Leader Andrew Morgan and I met with the Marks and Spencer senior management to voice our opposition to the closure of the store, and present them with a petition of over thirteen hundred signatories. 

The Ponty store has been an integral part of our high street for generations, extending back to the 1930s. The value we all place upon the store is demonstrated by the number of people who signed our petition objecting to the closure.

Marks and Spencer told us that they are consulting with staff on the closure, and they promised that our views would be considered as part of the consultation process.

During the meeting, I made clear the significant impact the closure would have on Ponty, and on that basis the Council offered to support the company to seek grant funding.

Marks and Spencer’s management told us that the store is losing money and that is why they are considering closing. 

After the meeting, I believe it will be difficult to change their mind about this, but we will continue to try. I also know that the Council is currently exploring options for the Taff Vale site, including whether we can persuade Mark and Spencer to be part of this exciting project.  The Lido will soon be opening over the summer, which is sure to bring lots more people to the town centre. We want to re-establish Pontypridd as a shopping destination and Marks and Spencer to be a part of this.

Alongside the Council, we offered every possible help available to persuade Mark and Spencer to reconsider their decision. I hope the retailer will take on board the offer of support from the Council and me to utilise funding available to support High Streets in Wales.

The store has a loyal following and with Ponty continuing to receive investment, everyone in this meeting felt that the decision of the retailer was somewhat short-sighted at this time. I hope that even if the company does not change its mind then they work with the Council to be part of future developments in Pontypridd.

Owen Smith MP