Cheers and unexpected tears greeted the start of demolition work on the former tax office in Huntingdon at the weekend which will be gone by Christmas.

Heavy machinery dislodged the first bricks from the eyesore on Saturday in front of a crowd of spectators and former Inland Revenue Staff.

The building is due to be replaced by Waitrose as part of the £25million redevelopment of Chequers Court which will also see Sainsbury's relocate to the west of the town and the supermarket building split into three smaller retail units.

Work on the new development is set to start in the new year, with the multi-storey car park that will serve the shops expected to be more or less finished before Christmas.

Kicking off the demolition was Tessa Foderingham who won a Rotary Club competition to sound the claxon on Saturday morning, with ticket sales raising £600 for children's charities.

Ms Foderingham, 60, of Temple Close, Huntingdon, said: “I was 12 when I moved to Huntingdon in the 60s and saw the buildings going up. When it was built it was state-of-the-art but now it looks very dated and it's a bit of an eyesore.”

More than 600 people bought tickets for the chance to start the demolition including cleaners who once worked in the offices and tax officials.

Ms Foderingham added: “I think people have quite strong feelings when it comes to taxes, even though we know we have to pay them we do so grudgingly.

“I certainly enjoyed being the one to start it off and I'd always wanted to sit in a digger.”

Ms Foderingham, who is an artist, also expressed her hope that artists would be able to contribute to the development.

The offices are being demolished by Anglian Demolition and representatives from architect Barber Casanovas Ruffles (BCR) were in the town on Saturday to oversee the start of the process.

Chris Jones, director at BCR, said: “The plan is to get the demolition and a significant amount of the car park done before Christmas so that we don't disrupt the busiest shopping period of the year.

“Then in the new year we will start on the new building.”

Mr Jones said that Waitrose was likely to be filling the space left by the tax office but that other retailers could not be confirmed.

“Once we get closer to completion we will have a better idea of which retailers will be coming in,” he added.

“There is certainly scope for larger retailers as two or three smaller units could be merged.”