Community fight to keep village shop open

Caroline Chennells and John Mathews standing beside Brent Knoll Village Shop.Picture: John Mathews

Caroline Chennells and John Mathews standing beside Brent Knoll Village Shop.Picture: John Mathews - Credit: Brent Knoll Village Shop

A village shop will close next month after its owner faced a ‘major challenge’ to keep it open.

Concerned villagers have since opted to run the store, in Brent Knoll, as a community enterprise to save it from permanent closure.

A survey has been launched by community shop project leads David Sturgess and John Matthews to help keep Brent Knoll Village Shop, in Brent Street, a permanent fixture in the area by turning the business into a community enterprise.

The Post Office at the store has already been put into suspension and the village shop will close on March 1.

Cllr Sturgess said: "The shop's owner, Caroline Chennells, has been very open about the store's situation for a long time, it hasn't been financially stable and its footfall hasn't been great.

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"Trying to run the shop as a business in the village has been a major challenge.

"The survey ends on March 7, and we need to establish if the majority of people are voting to open the shop as an enterprise and if they would be willing to help run the facility in Brent Knoll. Around 60 people responded to the online questionnaire in the first two to three days, and the result was overwhelmingly positive.

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"There have been around 75 responses so far, and a lot of people agreed to volunteer at the shop and to become a shareholder in the enterprise, which would cost between £50-£100."

David says around 20 volunteers are needed to help run the village shop and people can decide how many hours a week they can commit to the cause.

He said early indications from the survey show volunteer numbers are 'pretty much there'.

David added: "Once we have established a need to launch the community enterprise, we will apply to the Plunkett Foundation, which has saved more than 300 shops from closure, and 96 per cent of the stores are still running successfully.

"In order for us to have any hope of getting the Post Office back open, we need to get the community enterprise up-and-running."

Brent Knoll Parish Council is demonstrating its support for the project by agreeing to pay for the printing and distribution of leaflets to 600 homes in Brent Knoll and East Brent, which will be distributed in the villages today.

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