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Joy for Sawbridgeworth residents as Shell petrol station finally reopens after refurbishment takes nearly three years



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Residents were celebrating on Friday (December 3) after Sawbridgeworth's only petrol filling station reopened following a refurbishment which one critic claimed took longer than construction of The Shard tower in central London.

The Shell garage in London Road was back in business, complete with a Little Waitrose shop, after it was closed for nearly three years, with the revamp being beset by delays caused by issues including contamination and Covid-19.

Because of the raft of delays to the project, it became a subject of derision by members of the Sawbridgeworth group on Facebook, with many fearing the site would be sold for housing development.

The Shell Station ready for reopening (53492488)
The Shell Station ready for reopening (53492488)

When it was closed early in 2019 it was earmarked for reopening in September of that year, but the Indie revealed contamination had halted the project.

An East Herts Council (EHC) spokeswoman said in November 2019: “We’re waiting to hear from the Environment Agency that it has received a satisfactory contamination report and then the conditions of the planning permission will be fully discharged and the work can go ahead.”

Following a further year-and-a-half of inaction throughout the coronavirus lockdowns, a spokesman for the oil and gas giant contacted the Indie in May 2021 saying restarting work was dependent on EHC discharging a contamination condition.

Work began again on the London Road site in the summer. Pic: Vikki Lince. (53492514)
Work began again on the London Road site in the summer. Pic: Vikki Lince. (53492514)

Work finally began again in July, with Shell estimating a completion date of the end of the year, and Friday's eventual reopening was greeted with joy – and some shock – by residents.

Keely Beecroft said: "I can’t believe this is actually happening," Lewis Woodhouse added: "I'm shell shocked," while Ange Chan exclaimed: "It's a Christmas miracle!" Lorraine Thompson posted on Thursday: "I was so shocked at the progress that has been made this morning I drove straight past Bell Street when heading for the doctors."

Lloyd Taberer called for the reopening to be welcomed in the same way that royal occasions and declarations of wars ending are greeted: "Church bells should ring on the hour all day."

Some were experiencing FOMO. David Fuller said: "Totally gutted my tank's full – going to have to wait a week for the pleasure," and David Ashton added: "Feel a bit gutted I have a full tank. May drive through the night so I can fill up in the morning."

Frustrated residents feared the petrol station would never reopen after a series of delays. Pic: Vikki Lince. (53492520)
Frustrated residents feared the petrol station would never reopen after a series of delays. Pic: Vikki Lince. (53492520)

Lloyd Bird said: "I'm so pumped up for this," adding that he hoped it wasn't an April Fuels Day joke, Matthew Young responded: "I’m gassed to hear that it’s opening," while it was all too much for Sawbridgeworth hair salon Rudhair: "Got really emotional at the petrol station today. Don't know why, just started filling up."

Paul Mundell's suggestion that The Shard took less time to construct – even though from conception it took a decade – drew a call for local celebrity resident Rod Stewart to perform a grand opening.

The final word goes to Brian Duffy: "What will we moan about now?"



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