REASSURANCES have been offered that Marks & Spencer will not be shutting either of its two Chester stores despite a national closure programme.

M&S also says its plans to open a flagship store at Cheshire Oaks are unaffected. And contrary to speculation, there will be no job losses from stores which continue to trade.

The Chester operation has been viewed as vulnerable for a long time because it has not just one store, but two opposite each other in Foregate Street.

In addition, the new Cheshire Oaks store is expected to take some of its business after it was estimated the outlet could attract £6m a year from retailers generally within Chester city centre.

But spokeswoman Lucy Kelly confirmed Chester was not among the 27 mainly food stores listed for closure. And she said job losses were “just in stores where there is a proposed closure” which could see the loss of up to 780 positions across the country. The retailer is also planning to cut 450 head office jobs.

It is anticipated the two storey Cheshire Oaks store, which Ms Owen confirmed would still go ahead subject to planning consent, will replace the existing Marks & Spencer Simply Food store on The Coliseum although this is not part of this week’s announcement.

Plans for the new M&S store at Cheshire Oaks were approved by Ellesmere Port & Neston Borough Council on Tuesday, December 9.

The proposals have now been referred to the Government Office of the North West which will decide whether to ‘call in’ the scheme for further scrutiny or to give permission to go ahead.

The spokeswoman added that it would be “2010 and beyond” before the store would be open for business.