TONBRIDGE'S only department store is bowing out of the town after a £4 million pay-off from Sainsbury's.
Beales has surrendered its Angel Lane store to the supermarket giant to make way for the multimillion pound transformation of the town centre.
The retailer, which has been part of the Angel Lane complex since 1996, has become the first casualty of the supermarket's £70m redevelopment plans to bring a bigger food store, cinema, shops and leisure centre to Tonbridge.
The Bournemouth-based company announced this week it received £1 million for signing the agreement, and will be paid a further £3 million once certain conditions were met.
However the company would not be drawn on how many jobs would be lost or when it is likely to close.
Shoppers have told the Courier they were disappointed to lose the store, and raised concerns about its replacement.
Mags Timms, of Foalhurst Close, said the loss was a "retrograde" step for Tonbridge.
She added: "We have lived here since 1973 and gradually seen all the shops disappear. With a generation getting older and becoming less mobile, we need shops in one place. If Beales goes I'm not sure people will come to Tonbridge for Sainsbury's and a cinema."
Karen Hill, of Mabledon Road, said: "I will miss it for buying presents at Christmas. I think it has good prices for a department store and the staff are nice. It is a shame."
Gloria Avard, of Cornfield Way, said: "I don't use it very often but it's a shame to see it go. It would be lovely if they moved it to one of the empty shops on the High Street."
Janice Browne, of Tonbridge Civic Society, said: "I shall be sorry to see Beales go. It meets the need for a department store which Tonbridge does need.
"I can understand what's happening to obviously have the development proceed and the whole site has to be taken over and restructured.
"If you replace Beales, I would like to see the whole range of goods reappearing in the new shops.
"We don't want to join the horrors of North Farm in Tunbridge Wells."
Susan Adams, of Tonbridge Business Alliance, said: "I'm not surprised, but I'll still be sad to see it go. It will possibly be the first time we have not a department store in Tonbridge for many years. Before we had the Co-op and then Bentalls.
"I think it does still have a place in Tonbridge, but I believe (the bigger) Sainsbury's may fill the gap that it creates."
Ross Castle, portfolio development manager for Sainsbury's, said: "We have recently entered into an agreement whereby Beales could surrender the lease on its Tonbridge store as part of our town centre regeneration plans.
"This agreement will now provide the flexibility for plans to come forward for a comprehensive redevelopment of the site, for the benefit of the town."
He added: "We will be engaging with the local community over the coming months as this exciting proposal moves forward."
Steve Humphrey, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council's director of planning and transportation, said the deal will give the project "flexibility".