Co-op grows from its roots

IN the battle for supermarket supremacy, many analysts overlook the role of the Co-op.But in this part of the world the East of England Co-op is an integral part of our high streets, our housing estates, and of life in general.

IN the battle for supermarket supremacy, many analysts overlook the role of the Co-op.

But in this part of the world the East of England Co-op is an integral part of our high streets, our housing estates, and of life in general.

The Co-op may have a very traditional image, but in fact over the last few years the Ipswich-based society has proved itself to be one of the most innovative retailers in town - extending its hours to serve its customers and re-inventing itself as the convenience store that everyone wants on their street.

This expansion is continuing as the East of England Co-op has taken over another 20 foodstores in north Suffolk and mid-Norfolk.

Coming after the expansion of the Rosehill store in Ipswich and further major developments in Essex, the East of England Co-op really does show that staying close to the roots of the community pays dividends.

The key, of course, is that the company has learned to adapt and change.

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When it realised, back in the 1980s, that people wanted their local stores to be open when they needed things - in the evenings and on Sundays - they introduced extended opening hours.

When it realised a few years ago that running huge superstores in major towns like Ipswich was not its strength, it sold the original Solar superstore to Morrisons and invested in its neighbourhood stores which do steady business through the week.

The East of England Co-op is a real success story for the area. Long may it adapt and thrive.

IPSWICH is desperately in need of social housing, and one of the most frustrating things for residents of the town is to see the number of boarded up or derelict properties that could be used - or redeveloped - for new homes.

One of the biggest eyesores over recent years has been the Clumpfield site off Cambridge Drive which Raglan Housing Association leased off the council in 1999 and then later decided could not be redeveloped.

That left the site as an eyesore - one that has recently become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour.

So it is good news to hear that the borough has now reached agreement with Raglan to take back the site and look for new developers to come in and find a use for this potentially valuable site.

It could provide a substantial number of much-needed social homes in an area where they are needed and would be appreciated by residents.

The negotiations have been tough - but now they have been concluded everyone will hope that the council now gets on with finding a new developer so a plan can be drawn up and the construction workers will move on to the site sooner rather than later.

NEWS that Pablo Counago was on the point of returning to Portman Road earlier this week will be greeted by surprise by some fans - but many will be sorry that he won't be making the return journey.

There is a lingering feeling that the Portman Road fans never saw the best of this talented Spanish footballer - and that with maturity added to that talent he could have been a real force in the Championship in 2007.

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