Criticism over town centre store closure

Concern has been raised about the decision of electrical retailer Currys to close its town centre branch in favour of its premises in County Oak.

Currys was given permission in August to amalgamate its unit in County Oak with that of PC World and has since closed its Queens Square branch, moving all staff to the larger location.

Labour councillors have criticised the decision and have pointed out that the report which went before Crawley Borough Council’s development control committee said it was “anticipated” that the town centre store would be retained.

Cllr Geraint Thomas (Lab, Northgate) said: “The new store will clearly be a very attractive option for car-owning shoppers from Crawley and elsewhere with its increased floor space and adjacent free parking.

“However, the closure of the town centre store reduces choice for those who rely on - or prefer - the town centre for their shopping needs.”

He added: “This is a further illustration of a nationwide problem in hard economic times of shop closures in town centres whilst ‘out of town’ (and internet) shopping prospers – at least relatively.

“Whilst many are able to shop in County Oak, those within our community who rely on public transport will lose out. It also diminishes, in a small but significant way, what is currently known as the ‘offer’ of Crawley town centre.”

Cllr Claire Denman (Con, Pound Hill South and Worth) portfolio holder for planning and economic development said the council had been approached by a number of High Street names which had expressed an interest in setting up shop in Manor Royal rather than in the town centre itself.

She added: “Out of town retail is something we as a council have opposed continually.

“If we don’t have confidence in our town centre then no one else will. We’ve got to do everything we can to bolster up the town centre.”

A spokesman for Currys defended the company’s decision to close its town centre branch and said: “The closure of the Queens Square Currysdigital store is consistent with an ongoing store portfolio review which we announced back in 2008 and have firmly maintained ever since.

“We have operated Currys and PC World outlets in County Oak since 1999 but their recent relaunch at the same location as a ‘2 in 1’ megastore has created 10 new jobs for the local area, as well as generating an even better experience for customers, based on a wider, interactive product range, upgraded customer service and competitive pricing.”