We, the undersigned, urge Marks & Spencers to reconsider their decision to close their Newcastle-under-Lyme store. We request that they continue to keep a trading presence in our Town Centre. ................................................. COMMUNITY leaders are urging Marks & Spencer bosses to reconsider proposals to close a town's store. The high street giant revealed plans to shut the Simply Food branch in Newcastle yesterday, putting 19 jobs under threat. The Castle Walk outlet is among 27 branches facing the axe as the chain attempts to cut costs in the face of the economic downturn. M&S wants to close 25 Simply Food branches and two main stores with the loss of 780 jobs. A further 450 could go from its head office. Bosses announced the cuts yesterday after unveiling the chain's worst sales figures for almost a decade. M&S said UK like-for-like sales tumbled 7.1 per cent in the 13 weeks to December 27, its biggest sales collapse since July to September 1999, despite heavy price-cutting in the run-up to Christmas. Bosses say they hope to save around £200 million through the store closures. Chairman Stuart Rose said: "We believe that we have looked at every available option and opportunity to keep the Newcastle-under-Lyme store open, but in this tough trading environment it is no longer commercially viable. "We are very sadly putting forward this proposal to close the store, and will listen carefully to any suggestions employees have for alternatives." A period of consultation will now begin with the store's employees, but a spokesman could not confirm how long this will last. If the store does close, bosses have pledged to help workers find alternative employment. The Newcastle store opened in 2003 and attracted 2,000 customers on its first day. Newcastle Borough Council leader, Simon Tagg, said: "This is very disappointing as I understand the store was trading well. We have just lost another big name in Woolworths and it's a blow to what we are trying to do in the town centre." Mr Tagg said council officers will be writing to M&S to ask them to consider other options for the store. Trevor Miles, who runs PT Miles Jewellers and is vice-president of Newcastle Chamber Of Trade, said: "I was hoping the store would actually grow, but I suppose it's a sign of the times. "With Woolworths and Adams both going it's very worrying, but on the positive Newcastle is in quite a good position as we have a loyal base of customers." A spokesman for M&S said the closures would not affect potential new stores in Leek and at Freeport Talke. Bosses revealed they were interested in moving into Leek, in June, while Freeport Talke announced M&S would be part of a £15 million expansion, back in 2007. The redevelopment has yet to get under way but the shopping centre says M&S is still on board. The M&S stores in Hanley, Crewe and Stafford, and the Simply Food branches in Crewe and at North Stafford services on the M6, are unaffected by the closures.