A Wiltshire supermarket branch has reopened public steps that had been controversially closed for seven years after a lengthy row.

The flight of stairs at Waitrose in Malmesbury had been closed almost continuously since 2017 after they fell into disrepair and were judged to be unsafe.

Following pressure from the town council and residents, the steps have now been repaired and reopened, allowing shoppers to exit the supermarket car park on foot and access the High Street.

Last August, town councillors branded the delay in repairing the steps “disgraceful”, and threatened a boycott of the store if they were not reopened.

This came after Waitrose confirmed no decision had been made on the future of the stairs.

During the time they were closed, shoppers reportedly resorted to using the dangerous steps or scrambling down a grassy bank to reach the town centre.

Malmesbury mayor, Cllr Gavin Grant, says failing to reopen the steps would have been “unacceptable”.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The steps last AugustThe steps last August (Image: Malmesbury Town Council)

He said: “The steps were installed on a promise to Malmesbury to help our High Street and for the convenience of shoppers.

“They have been closed for the best part of seven years, following a failed safety inspection.

“The John Lewis Partnership promised to repair them but last year said their plan had changed and they were going to remove them altogether.

“That was unacceptable and would have broken their promise to Malmesbury.”

He added that he was delighted this uncertainty had been ended.

“We and the local Waitrose team have campaigned hard to get that decision reversed”, he added.

“So, we are all delighted to see the steps open again, safe for public use and the promise is kept.”

Waitrose regulars Janice and Edward James said the reopening was “great news and a long time coming”.

While the steps are fully in use, the wooden railings are due to be treated.

Cllr Kim Power added: “The steps are great for residents on foot and for those who wish to park there and, after shopping at Waitrose, walk into town for other shops.

“Yes, it has been a long and often frustrating process with the property side of the company after the steps fell into such disrepair.

“However, we have always had an excellent relationship with our local Waitrose branch partners, many of whom are Malmesbury residents.

“They have been and are very supportive of local charities and initiatives, and along with our other supermarkets and smaller retailers, continue to provide a fantastic range of options for shopping locally.”