MARKS and Spencer in Dorchester is to close its doors for the final time on February 22.

The store will close despite a campaign by local residents to keep it open.

A petition attracted more than 5,000 signatures and ‘peaceful protest' was staged outside the South Street store in August.

The company had announced in July that it was in discussion with 53 members of staff over proposals to close the branch.

Sandy Jordan, 52, from Dorchester, organised the demonstration.

Mrs Jordan, who runs Jordans Jewellers in the town centre, said at the time: “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 had suggested a compromise – to keep an M&S Foodhall in the town.

Aaron Spicer, M&S Head of Region for the South Coast, said at the time the closure was confirmed: "Shopping habits are changing and closing our Dorchester store is a difficult but necessary decision as part of our plans to reshape our estate and better serve our customers with fewer, more inspirational stores. We remain committed to local customers and will continue to serve them from our website and other stores in the area, including M&S Weymouth and our Foodhall in Blandford Forum, where customers can also pick up Clothing & Home products in store via Click & Collect."

A spokesman said that all employees at the store would be offered redeployment.