Hundreds of Gravesend residents have flocked to sign a petition to keep their beloved Marks and Spencer store from closing.

Councillor Tanmanjeet Dhesi, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Gravesham, organised the petition and collected signatures in Gravesend town centre on Saturday (June 7).

Cllr Dhesi said: "The proposed closure of this popular shop has sent shock waves through the local community. "I have collected signatures for various petitions before but I have never experienced anything like this.

"People were actually queuing up to sign the petition and we collected over 600 signatures in about three hours."

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The Labour candidate says the popularity of the petition highlights the community's "depth of feeling" about the store which has been in the town for 100 years.

Cllr Dhesi branded the company's decision to close the shop a "folly" saying: "It is sheer folly for M&S to close their Gravesend store at a time when so many business opportunities are on the horizon. "For example, the planned Paramount Park and the new garden city at Ebbsfleet will generate investment, footfall and businesses in the town centre."

Tory leader Cllr John Cubitt is supporting Labour's plans to fight for the store - but has blamed the council for the number of empty units in the town.

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Cllr Cubitt said: "Labour controlled Gravesham Council has contributed greatly to the town’s problem by increasing the parking charges for shoppers by over 60 per cent since regaining control of the council in 2011.

"One of the first things Labour did was to scrap the very popular "free parking" on Saturdays.

"I call on them to immediately reverse this, especially at a time when the council are sitting on millions of pounds of council tax payer’s money in the councils ‘reserves’ bank account - simply doing nothing."

Marks and Spencer announced plans to consider closing the store in New Road on June 2.

A spokesman for the company said: "We are closely managing our store estate to ensure it is fit for the future of M&S and, after much consideration, we have taken the decision to propose the closure of our store on New Road."