A BRIEF ribbon-cutting ceremony heralded the opening of Haslemere's new Tesco supermarket in Wey Hill on Monday morning.
Eager shoppers who queued for a glimpse of the new 19,500 sq ft store, were greeted by applause by assembled members of staff as the doors opened to the public for the first time at 9 am.
Store manager Clive Brazier, presented the supermarket's first customer with a bottle of champagne Also at the opening were Andrew Brownrigg, president of the Haslemere and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, as well as town and borough councillors.
Mr Howard said it was a "proud pleasure" to open the new Tesco store and welcomed Mr Brazier and his team to the town.
"Tesco is an exciting innovative company and I am sure it will be a great asset to Haslemere.
"Although there was a lot of concern when the idea of a supermarket first came up, I am sure it will bring new shoppers to the town. My one small regret is that despite four years' warning, Waverley Borough Council has still not addressed issues in the town centre," he said.
Mr Howard continued: "Tesco is an asset to the town but will inevitably have an impact on the town centre, and I wish Waverley could have used the time to come up with a plan to reduce car parking charges in line with the free parking offered by Tesco at the Wey Hill end of town. I just feel the last four years have been wasted."
Mr Brazier said it was "fantastic" to finally be able to open the new Haslemere supermarket.
He added: "It has taken years of planning and we have been working around the clock over the last two weeks to make sure everything was ready on time. The staff, who have been busy training at our stores in Horsham and Chichester, are all very excited and we are looking forward to serving the people of Haslemere."
Customers who ventured into the store on opening day were largely in favour of the new supermarket, which has a delicatessen, fresh fish and hot chicken counters, an in-store bakery, a 62-seat customer cafe, a wide selection of books and CDs and 240 free parking spaces.
One said: "I thought it was very spacious and there was lots of selection especially on the grocery side. I was very impressed with the delicatessen and hot chicken counters.
Continued on Page 6 of this week's Herald