Personal service stays despite closure

THE proprietor of a town's only surviving petrol service station has decided to offer help to some of his elderly customers when the pumps run dry for the last time.

By David Green

THE proprietor of a town's only surviving petrol service station has decided to offer help to some of his elderly customers when the pumps run dry for the last time.

The Lowgate Garage at Eye is finally closing on April 2, partly as a result of price competition from the big supermarkets.

While the vehicle maintenance side of the business will continue at nearby Occold, there will be no petrol sales.


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Elderly people, some with arthritic hands, have travelled from over a wide area to Eye because it is one of only a few surviving service stations in north Suffolk not run on a self-service basis.

An attendant still unscrews the often stiff caps of petrol tanks before operating the pump.

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Now Terry Collins, joint proprietor of the garage, has decided to offer help free-of-charge to about ten long-term and elderly customers, some of whom cannot manage to serve themselves petrol or have become so used to the help of an attendant they do not relish having to go elsewhere and serve themselves.

"I know the closure of our garage is going to present them with a problem and I feel I want to help. I will pick up their cars and drive to a service station and fill up the tank for them. I shall not be charging them a penny," he said.

Mr Collins, 63, former sub-officer in charge of the part-time Eye fire crew, has worked at the Lowgate Garage since 1965 and became a partner in the business 16 years ago when he was joined by Tony Hoskins.

In 1990 there was major fire at the premises which caused £25,000 worth of damage.

"It was on the evening of my 50th birthday. I was still in charge of the fire crew but I was not on call because I was enjoying a celebratory meal in Norwich. It was big shock when I heard the news," he said.

Mr Hoskins is now retiring and, in the new venture at Occold, Mr Collins' partner will be David Lock.

Alan Cooper, mayor of Eye, said the closure of the town's last petrol service station was a "very sad loss".

"It is bad for the town because we once had three places where you could buy petrol. With the supermarkets now selling fuel these little garages do not make any money," he added.

Felicity Capes, of Bedingfield, who is in her 70s, said she would be one of those taking advantage of Mr Collins' offer to drive loyal and elderly customers' cars to a service station to fill-up with petrol.

"I have been a customer for ten years and, while I suppose I could manage to get the petrol myself, I have grown accustomed to being served by an attendant," she added.

The Lowgate Garage site has been sold to a property developer and the land will be used to form the access to a new housing estate.

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