Stevenage Co-op staff welcome customers for first time in two months

Co-op staff at Symonds Green were in great spirits this morning, welcoming customers for the first t

Co-op staff at Symonds Green were in great spirits this morning, welcoming customers for the first time in two months. Picture: Jacob Savill - Credit: Archant

The Symonds Green Co-op in Stevenage opened its doors for the first time in two months this morning, to the delight of residents and staff.

The store was forced to close at the end of September after private construction of second-floor flats exposed the store to heavy flooding.

Today's long-awaited reopening comes after a series of false dawns - with branch manager Chris Newbitt originally planning to open last Sunday, and then Tuesday, but further leaks forced him to postpone.

Symonds Green residents were in great spirits this morning, gathering and chatting by the busy community hub on Filey Close.

One resident said "the lack of a post office was the biggest loss", and said he had been travelling by bus to the town centre just to receive his pension. "You look at what's going on above the flats, and you think something's gone wrong there", he said. "Building works above shops happen all the time, I can't believe it's taken this long to get the shop open again."

Branch manager Chris Newbitt said he was "absolutely delighted to be serving the Symonds Green community once again, after an immensely frustrating few months.

"It would have been very easy to just give up, not go into the store and check the damage", he said.

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"I'm so proud of our staff and the efforts we've made to get the store ship-shape and open for our residents who rely on the service."

Chris says that he doesn't know for sure how the flooding became so serious, but it is thought the cross-beam panelling on the roof of the complex meant that more water was allowed to seep through than contractors had anticipated.

Robertson Francis Partnership - developers of the flats on behalf of the private owner - have been approached for comment.

Leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor commented this morning: "I am delighted to see our Co-op & Post Office has reopened. Its services are truly valued by all our residents & have been sorely missed by our community these last weeks when it has had to close for flood damage to be repaired.

"Most of all we have missed the lovely staff there who take such an interest in the people of our community in Symonds Green. Welcome back! Can I also thank the other shops and staff for keeping going through some difficult times."

A Co-op spokesperson said: "We'd like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by the temporary closure, but ensuring the building was safe for colleagues and customers was of paramount importance after flooding occurred in the properties above."