Marks & Spencer has announced it will not be relocating to the £100m Rochdale Riverside retail development, prompting Rochdale Council to warn it could take legal action.
M&S signed up as one of the anchor tenants in the scheme in 2015, and was due to move out of its Yorkshire Street branch in the town and relocate to a new 50,000 sq ft store.
However, the retailer has said it would now not be taking up the space, and would continue to operate its Yorkshire Street store.
This prompted an angry reaction from Rochdale Council chief executive Steve Rumbelow, who said: “As far as the council is concerned Marks & Spencer has a legally-binding agreement to take space in Rochdale Riverside.
“They negotiated a deal as a key anchor tenant and committed to it knowingly and willingly.
“On that basis, Marks & Spencer should be under no illusion that we expect them to fulfil their legal obligation to Rochdale and the new retail scheme.”
Alongside M&S, Next and Reel Cinemas are also signed up as tenants for Rochdale Riverside, which will include 24 retail and leisure units, 350 parking spaces, and a six-screen cinema over 200,000 sq ft.
Plans for the retail-led first phase, which has been designed by TP Bennett with Arcadis as project manager, were approved in April this year. DPP acted as planner.
A second phase, including a 120-bed hotel, offices, commercial space, and a maximum of 100 residential units, was given outline planning approval.
Genr8 is the developer, and has been contacted for comment.
A spokesperson for Marks & Spencer said: “We’re adapting to changing customer habits and this means taking some tough decisions – we’re investing in new stores, relocating stores and, in some cases, closing stores.
“In this case, we don’t believe relocating the store is the right move and have therefore informed the council that we no longer intend to proceed.
“Instead our intention is to continue to serve customers in Rochdale from our Yorkshire Street store and from M&S.com.”
It is the third store in the North West that M&S has pulled out of in the last 12 months. M&S was accused of “messing about” by Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley earlier this month, after it was reported the retailer would not be opening a new Simply Food store in the town.
This followed a 5.3% drop in M&S’s pre-tax profit in its half-year results for 2017, when it also announced it would cut capital expenditure to between £300m and £350m, down from previous guidance of £400m.
M&S also pulled out of Oldham’s Prince’s Gate scheme last year, where it was due to be anchor tenant on a clothing, home and food store. The retailer said it would not be taking up the space in November 2016, having signed an agreement with Oldham Council in late 2014.