THOUSANDS of people have backed Beales in its fight to stop its landlords turning the top four storeys of its Bournemouth store into flats.

The department store’s chairman says he is “hugely grateful” after more than 7,000 people signed a petition against the plans for 76 homes.

But a partner in the property fund behind the application has urged objectors to spend money in the store.

The deadline for objections to the planning application passed yesterday. Beales chairman Stuart Lyons said: “I am hugely grateful to the shopping public for this massive show of support. Beales has served the people of Bournemouth since 1881 and we will continue to work hard to meet our customers’ needs and aspirations.

“I have sent my own detailed objections to the planners, which I believe add to the compelling case that Beales should continue as Bournemouth’s heritage department store. I hope that the local planning authority will take full note of the views of all the objectors and refuse the application, so that this unnecessary disruption can come to an end.”

Rachel McIsaac, partner and head of asset management at AEW UK – the building's landlord – said it had Beales’s interests at heart.

“AEW are working with Beales to ensure a long term future for Beales’ flagship department store. We want Beales to stay in Bournemouth,” she said.

She urged petitioners to spend money in the shop. “If they want to support Beales, do their shopping there. It’s a great store, it’s got a fabulous retail offer. We would encourage people that the best way to save Beales is to go and spend their money there.”

Shoppers yesterday voiced their support for Beales.

Poole councillor Marion Pope, who was shopping in the Bournemouth store, said: “I don’t think of buying clothes very often, but when I do, I always come to Bournemouth as there is a better choice of shops than where I’m from in Wool.

“I don’t feel like it is finished as a store yet.”

Robert Readman, 76, from Bournemouth, said: “Beales is part of the town’s history and it’s the best department store in the town.”

Fellow retailer Gilly Snell, from Charles Fox Jewellers Ltd, in Bournemouth Arcade, said of the plan: “It’s a disgrace that anybody would think about doing it.

"We have to fight just to keep our heads above water as the council keep on putting up the business rates.”