Fears are held for the future of Whitehaven’s town centre after shock news that the town’s most high profile shop is to close.

It is understood that Dorothy Perkins will close next month, although, despite several attempts to contact the company, no official comment has yet been given.

The news comes on the back of an announcement that, while Shoe Zone will remain in Whitehaven and even increase its size and staff numbers, it too will move out of King Street onto the Bridge Retail Park.

Town mayor Brian O’Kane said the closure of any shop has a negative affect on the town.

“I understand that the problem is that the shop’s rent has written significantly although I can’t verify that.”

Town councillor Julie Rayson said people wanted to shop in Whitehaven but it had become difficult: “I really believe the roadworks and the lack of parking in the town centre is stopping people from coming into town.”

Another councillor, Graham Roberts also expressed concern about rates and rents which were sometimes too high to make business profitable.

But all three agreed that a change in shopping habits and the internet were to blame for a lot of the town centre demise.

Residents are also feeling the loss.

Sue Marsh, 60, of Parton: “I came here 10 years ago and have watched the town centre decline.

“We need to get off the internet and support local shops - but I guess it is too late now.”

Mr O’ Kane said Whitehaven’s bid for a share of the Government’s £1 billion Future High Street fund is the best hope for the town.

“The closures on King Street are so disappointing but if we get a share of that we will be able to transform the high street and make it something people want to use today. That might be quite different to King Street now. It could include services such as physiotherapy, for instance."

Whitehaven, along with Maryport, are the two West Cumbrian towns who have been invited to submit a full plan after an initial application for funding.

The Government first said 50 projects would be chosen but has now added 50 more which has given the towns another chance.