SHOPPERS from Milnthorpe gathered at the opening of a long-debated Booths supermarket today.

Chairman Edwin Booth was driven to the company’s 23rd store, on Park Road, in a horse and cart as a symbol of the firm’s 165-year heritage.

He cut the ribbon with family members Graham Booth, Simon Booth and the firm’s sixth generation member Henry Booth.

The leader of the North West business empire defended the store’s place in the town, after previous objections from local traders and residents and planning refusal in 2011.

“Any business in any town eyes its competition with some scepticism,” he said. “They have to understand that the same thing happens to us when a massive Tesco opens by a Booths store.

“If it wasn’t going to be a Booths it could have been a major development. This is a regional business as opposed to a national business and many people will view this as a positive and not a negative.”

Mr Booth said the new store was ‘almost like having a new member of the family’.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Henry Booth has joined the family team as a trainee buyer for the firm.

The Aberdeen University graduate, who lives in Whassett, near Milnthorpe, said he was passionate about food and had come to appreciate his family’s business more while studying.

A store-height sculpture by a former Dallam School pupil was unveiled at the store. The artwork, produced by Leeds Metropolitan University graduate artist Katie Edwards, depicts the Arnside and Storth Viaduct, which was constructed in 1857 to transport locals from Arnside to Grange.

Graham Booth said: “This artwork will stand proud outside the store and we hope it will be enjoyed by shoppers for years to come. Every Booths store is architect designed to be unique to the region.”

Houghton Parkhouse, of Milnthorpe, produced this unique piece of art using a specialist laser cutter to precisely create the metal piece.

Pam Houghton, director at Houghton Parkhouse, said: “We wanted to create a piece of art that offered a reflection of Milnthorpe, its history and its beautiful surrounding area. Katie took our initial ideas and transformed them into something very special, she has certainly captured the detail in such an imaginative way and we are delighted with the results.”