A PETITION has been launched after the council made the decision to put a controversial pop-up store in the place of the old Marks and Spencer in the town.

Forces Support will open in the town centre in the coming weeks, after the council decided to use the unit it purchased after Marks and Spencer closed last year.

Wokingham Borough Council has so far failed to respond to requests to disclose the amount it paid for the unit. 

A petition to stop the charity opening in the town has gained the support of more than 1,100 residents.

The company received criticism in 2016 when it was accused of not using the money it had raised fairly, and instead using it to line the pockets of bosses.

According to records, the company received an income of £2.7m in 2015-16, with outgoings of £2.5m, however, only 15 per cent of the funds went on charitable activities.

Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development and regeneration, said: “We secured the property in December and, since then, have continued to work up detailed feasibility studies to find the best option for this site.

“It’s important that the unit continues to act as part of the local shopping high street as well as integrating with the rest of the regeneration projects and the new square at Peach Place.

“Understandably this process takes time and we felt it was important that the unit doesn’t sit empty until a decision is made. With this in mind we have agreed a temporary let of the site to the charity Forces Support whilst we look at longer term options for the space.

“Working with a charity like Forces Support is a great option as their format, which includes larger items like furniture, will make best use of the space whilst it is available. We hope people will welcome them and support them whilst they are in Wokingham as the work they do to help bereaved families is incredibly important.”

The opening date has not been confirmed yet, and Forces Support indicate more information about the shop will be released when the opening date is revealed.

Cllr Munro continued: “As with all potential lettings the council followed a due diligence process before entering into a lease agreement with Forces Support. No issues were flagged during this process. We cannot comment on the allegations made by the petition organiser.

"However, we are reviewing the allegations with discussion with the charity themselves as well as the Charity Commission. Last night we also met with the petition organiser to discuss his concerns.”