Shilton's car park opening a result for Cully
GOALKEEPING legend Peter Shilton met an unsung hero, got the lowdown on the Hug Cullompton campaign and declared himself surprised by the warmth of the welcome party that greeted him as he visited the town to open its new car park.
The former England international is a close friend of Willand resident Reg Payne, who bought the former magistrates court building on Exeter Hill and redeveloped it to create 50 car parking spaces.
Mr Payne invited the former Nottingham Forest and Southampton shot-stopper, who he has known for more than 30 years, to officially open the car park on Friday, November 16.
A large crowd gathered at the site to witness him do the honours.
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Shilton posed for photographs with fans and signed autographs before declaring the car park open by cutting the ribbon from the seat of his car.
He told the crowd: "I didn't realise we would have as many people as we do here today, but it is a real pleasure to come and open the new car park."
With a speaking engagement lined up in Taunton that evening, Shilton agreed to come down early and open the car park as a favour to Mr Payne.
The bays in the car park will provide vital parking for the town, including the Hayridge next door where Shilts spoke to members of the public.
Toy shop owner Brian Johns waited patiently to get an England football shirt he had been given by his son and daughter-in-law signed by the man who has more England caps than any other player.
Beverley Stanbury, who works in the cafe at the Hayridge, had her photograph taken with the football legend. She recently received an 'unsung heroes' award from her employers Devon Norse for her role in setting up the cafe at the library and was pictured with the star holding the certificate.
The warmth of the welcome the 63-year-old received from the people of Cullompton was underlined by his meeting with members of the Hug Cullompton Campaign. Although initially bemused by their shirts with logos of a heart with outstretched arms, he was happy to pose for photographs with his new feel-good friends.
Reg and his wife Leslie bought the former magistrates' court site for an undisclosed fee. Cullompton Town Council considered buying the court site but abandoned the project following public opposition.