THE closure of a high street store would take the heart out of the county town, campaigners say.

A peaceful protest was staged outside Dorchester’s Marks & Spencer, South Street, on Saturday following the news the store has been earmarked for closure as part of the company’s reorganisation plan.

Sandy Jordan, 52 and from Dorchester, organised the demonstration. Mrs Jordan, who runs Jordans Jewellers in the town centre, said: “The shop is very popular and we have received a lot of support from people in the town. We have had a great turnout for our protest, which just shows how much support there is.”

Prue Jakeman, 78, was personnel manager at the store for more than 30 years and was ‘devastated’ when she heard the news it could close.

“This is the county town,” she said. “To not have an M&S is not on.

“My daughter and my granddaughter have worked here. It’s always been such a family store – and it still is. If it goes it would take the heart out of Dorchester. What’s next?”

Campaigners have suggested a compromise – to keep an M&S Foodhall in the town.

“That would be well-supported,” said Mrs Jakeman. “Most people visit the store every day. If it all went, that would be awful.”

Dot Hand, 83, said M&S is ‘the hub’ of Dorchester ‘without question.’ “They want to build more than 3,000 houses – that’s a lot of mouths to feed,” she said.

“We have been loyal to them for all these years, now it’s up to them to be loyal to us. I’ve always shopped here, as has my sister. She’s 95 and she is heartbroken.”

Sharon Peto-Clark, 56 and from Dorchester, said she is concerned about the number of elderly people who have relied on the store for so long.

“It is going to have such a big impact on them,” she said. “I am starting to worry about the future of Dorchester.”

Town crier, Cllr Alistair Chisholm, also attended the protest to lend his support.

He said the shop’s closure would reduce the offer in the county town.

“There is an assumption when you come to the county town that you will find well-established stores like M&S,” he said.

Campaigners have also launched a petition, which gathered more than 5,000 signatures soon after going live.

They will meet outside the store again at 10am on Wednesday so that anyone who wants to sign a paper petition can do so.

M&S announced its proposals for he potential closure of the South Street branch last month.

Aaron Spicer, M&S head of region for Wessex, said: “We’re transforming our store estate to meet the needs of today’s customers. Proposing to close our Dorchester store is a difficult but necessary part of reshaping our estate to have fewer, but more inspirational stores. Over the coming weeks our priority will be supporting our great team of colleagues at Dorchester as we discuss what’s best for them.

“If the proposal goes ahead, we will continue to serve customers from our website and other stores in the area, including Weymouth.”