AFTER years of stumbling blocks and false starts, the new retail parade in Walcot has been officially opened to signal the final demise of Sussex Square.

The parade, known as Sussex Place, has been operating for a few weeks, but Midcounties Co-operative finally opened its unit today.

It joins Subway, Barnardo’s, Rowlands Pharmacy, Walcot Library and Walcot Community Shop in the shadows of the derelict Sussex Square complex, which will be demolished next year.

The opening of the Co-op signals an end to the first phase of the overall redevelopment project across Somerville Road and Seymour Road, which includes 48 new residential properties.

Walcot & Park North Labour councillors Steve Allsopp, Abdul Amin and Emma Bushell were in attendance and relieved with how it had turned up.

“There was a lot of ‘bloody hell, what’s happening’ from residents in the area when the rubble started piling up and it wasn’t clear what work was being done,” said Coun Allsopp.

“One of the concerns was keeping shops open while one side was built and another demolished. Thankfully we’ve been able to achieve that and the officers should get a lot of credit for that.

“It’s going to make the area more of a destination. It lifts the area. Sussex Square has been under threat for so long, but this is the best outcome for everyone.”

He also praised John Coates of Swindon Borough Council for his leg work in delivering the £10m project thus far.

Sussex Square has been hitting headlines for the wrong reasons over the past 12 months as chronic anti-social behaviour led to a number of court appearances for the area’s teenagers.

ASBOs have been handed out to a large number of the youths who previously congregated in the area, but there are hopes these problems will not follow the retailers to the new parade.

“It is more open plan now, it is open to the main road and exposed, which may have some impact on the anti-social behaviour,” said Coun Allsopp.

“There is some kind of correlation between a higher risk of bad behaviour with more run-down buildings, so these new sites will hopefully deter the few.”

Peter Mallinson, who runs Walcot Community Shop, said: “The design of the hood around the walkway, that’s open to the elements and if it rains like it does today, it goes straight through it.

“That should deter people from congregating their under any shelter.

“At Sussex Square you could take yourself away and only the CCTV would see you.”

New jobs have been created as a result of the redevelopment, with the Co-op yesterday (THU) revealing it had nearly trebled its workforce with the new store, which now has a roster of 24 employees.