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SINCE the closure of The Toast Office in Whitley, the Shaw and Whitley community hub group has been dedicated to finding a way to retain a village stores to serve the local community.
The group report, “There has been a shop on the corner of First Lane and Top Lane since the 1930s and a survey conducted village-wide by the Shaw and Whitley community hub revealed that there is a strong desire within the villages of Whitley and Shaw for a well-stocked, no-frills convenience store that also offers Post Office facilities and a simple café or place for villagers to meet.
“The group has been working tirelessly since the shop closure in putting together a robust proposal to create a place where the villagers of Shaw and Whitley can shop, meet and feel involved in the community. Their plan is to establish a community-run shop, similar to ones run successfully in Bathford, Steeple Ashton, Limpley Stoke, Kington St Michael and many other villages nearby and across the UK.
“Community shops have a positive impact on the local economy, by supporting local producers and suppliers and creating employment and volunteering opportunities. In addition to sourcing local food with lower food miles, community shops save rural residents car journeys to alternative food stores. Community shops collectively are estimated to save 4 million miles of car journeys a year.
“Most importantly, perhaps, community shops are resilient forms of business – the long-term success rate of community shops is 94% (by 2017, only 24 have closed since records began in 1992), and the five-year survival rate is 94% compared to the estimated small business UK rate of 41%. It is a very successful way for small rural communities to retain access to a local shop.
“The existing shop premises at 116 Top Lane is currently the only suitable vacant commercial premises in Shaw and Whitley and has now come onto the market for sale, enabling the group to properly assess the site’s feasibility and formulate their funding options should they wish to purchase the property.
“The Shaw and Whitley community hub steering group would be very interested to speak to any potential investor who might be interested in purchasing the property with a view to leasing out the commercial premises. The group has a strong business plan with financial projections to support ongoing lease costs at a market rate, is backed by the Plunkett Foundation, who offer support and advice to community enterprises such as ours and is registered as a Community Benefit Society with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They are keen to position themselves as Tenant of Choice for the premises.
“The group’s proposal is for a long-term, community-friendly business. The project has the overwhelming support of the local community and Shaw and Whitley community hub would be delighted to move forward with the support of an investor who shares the group’s passion and vision.
“If you are interested in discussing the group’s proposals with the members of the steering group, please get in touch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website for more information at whitleycommunityhub.com