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Santa's grotto at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre reopens along with mall stalls after emergency work to sprinkler system


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A shopping centre's popular Santa's grotto has reopened following emergency work to repair a faulty sprinkler system.

Dozens of families were left disappointed when the sudden closure at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre in Gillingham forced bookings to be cancelled.

Santa's grotto at Hempstead Valley has reopened after emergency work to a sprinkler system forced its closure. Picture: Hempstead Valley
Santa's grotto at Hempstead Valley has reopened after emergency work to a sprinkler system forced its closure. Picture: Hempstead Valley

Several businesses have also been counting the cost of lost trading in the run up to Christmas after being told on November 24 they would have to shut temporarily.

Mall traders set up on the concourse were told the work could force them to close their stalls for a week until December 1 but they were finished late last week and were allowed to reopen on Saturday – 10 days later.

Repairs were needed to fix the problem and centre managers have been working alongside Kent Fire and Rescue Service to get the traders' stalls open again and the grotto open to the public.

People claimed they had not been told about the issues and cancellations for bookings said they arrived to find it had been closed.

There has also been frustration among businesses about a lack of information being shared during the works.

'We are very sorry for the inconvenience these essential works have caused to our customers and tenants.'

The grotto opened on Saturday morning along with the other stalls and cafes in the mall area.

The larger units around the outside of the building, such as Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's, remained open but the underground car park was closed during the repairs.

A message from the centre confirming the reopening said: "The grotto has been relocated to the Community Hall, which is located on the first floor above Kent Reliance Building Society (next to Nando’s).

"There will be signs to help you find this on arrival or please ask one of our staff to direct you.

"We are now fully booked for the grotto for this weekend [December 4 and 5]. All pre-bookings that have already been placed [from Saturday] will go ahead as scheduled.

"Baby Sensory classes are not affected.

"We are very sorry for the inconvenience these essential works have caused to our customers and tenants, and on behalf of the centre we thank you for your patience during this time."

The centre also apologised to customers and children for the grotto and said anyone unable to attend a pre-booked slot should email bookings@greatgrottos.co.uk to secure a refund.

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