AFTER a four-year wait Abingdon has welcomed the opening of the new Co-op store, which has incorporated the town’s main post office.

Shoppers turned out to watch as the new store in West St Helen Street was officially opened by mayor Patrick Lonergan on Thursday. The High Street post office closed its doors the same day, relocating — along with all its staff — to the Co-op building.

Mr Lonergan said: “We are very pleased that the Co-op has chosen to reinvest in the town, particularly this part of the town where this will open up West St Helen Street.

“The fact that the post office is here is great as well.”

The former Co-op store closed at the end of 2004 and was demolished early in 2005. The Co-op originally put forward an unusual modern design for the new store, but backed down after protests that it was out of keeping in Abingdon’s historic town centre. A more traditional design was subsequently chosen.

Town councillor Peter Fulk said: “The whole town seems to be delighted and relieved that the new owners have come up with a sympathetic building in keeping with the street scene.”

Town council leader Lesley Legge said: “I am delighted that opening day has finally arrived and welcome the return of the Co-op to Abingdon. I hope the relocation of the post office works well and access will certainly be improved, but I am sad at the move from the High Street.”

Store manager Kevin Arblaster worked at the Co-op store before it closed. He said: “I have been with the society (Co-op) for 25 years.

“I left Larkmead School on a Tuesday and I started working here on a Friday and now I have come back here to work.”

A total of 18 jobs have been created at the shop and Mark Henderson, senior district manager, said that ten former Woolworth’s staff have been employed. He said: “It has been their loss and our gain, as we have got some very good people from Woolworths.”

l As reported previously in the Herald, it had been feared that, following the Co-op’s national takeover of the Somerfield chain, the supermarket in the Bury Street precinct would have to close because of competition laws.

However, the Office of Fair Trading has announced the Abingdon shops will not be affected by this because they are owned by different parts of the Co-op movement — the new store by The Mid-Counties Co-operative and the Somerfi