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Quitting Walsall will cost M&S - council leader

By Richard Guttridge | Walsall | News | Published:

Marks & Spencer could be forced to pay Walsall Council millions of pounds if they want to quit the town, it has been claimed.

Council leader Mike Bird says M&S will owe the council a ‘substantial payment’ if it pulls out of Walsall town centre breaking its lease

Council leader Mike Bird said the high street giant had more than 100 years left to run on its lease at the town’s Saddlers Centre – and could now be made to hand over a ‘substantial’ sum to get out of it.

It comes as any hopes of keeping M&S in the town were dashed following a crunch meeting when company bosses said they were adamant the shop would close.

Councillor Bird said the loss of the big-name retailer was ‘disappointing’ and warned there would now have to be discussions about the company’s departure.

Walsall Council confirmed the lease runs into the next century and the leader claimed it could mean the retailer having to pay the authority in order to exit it.

Another option could be for M&S to sublet its store to another tenant, Councillor Bird said.

It was revealed last week that the shop would shut its doors for the final time on August 11 after 84 years in Walsall, putting nearly 100 jobs at risk.

Councillor Bird said: “We had a meeting and they are adamant that the store will close.

"They were very sympathetic but unfortunately the survival of the business is what’s important to them.

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“At the end of the day the lease is until 2129, so if they are hell-bent on leaving the town they will have to negotiate and pay some money to go.

“There is 110 years left to run so it would obviously be a substantial payment to the land owner, which in this case is the council. Either they find someone to fill the void or negotiate an extrication from the lease.”

Just last month Walsall North MP Eddie Hughes said the future of the Saddlers Centre has been put in jeopardy by the imminent closure of its Marks and Spencer store.

Eddie Hughes says he has ‘grave concerns’ over the Walsall shopping centre, after M&S announced it was pulling out of the town as part of a dramatic retreat from the high street.

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The store opened in 1980 and was the centrepiece of the Saddlers Centre, which Walsall Council bought with a ‘high risk’ loan of £13.8 million last year.

He added: “These are worrying times for the future of the centre as a whole.

“When a major store goes from any shopping centre there is always the chance of a domino effect and other stores following suit.”

M&S was contacted for comment.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Chief Reporter - @RichG_star

Chief Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton.

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