Shop closure turning village into 'ghost town'

PUBLISHED: 13:00 25 May 2011

(click on image for larger view) Fire at the COOP Store in Winscombe.

(click on image for larger view) Fire at the COOP Store in Winscombe.

Archant

THE closure of a vital shop has turned the centre of a village into a 'ghost town', it has been claimed.

The Co-Operative Society shop in Winscombe was forced to shut on April 25 after a fire caused substantial damage to the shop, and it has remained closed since.

While the company says it is conducting ‘extensive’ repairs to reopen the Woodborough Road store, one parish councillor has said the store’s prolonged closure is having a knock-on effect on neighbouring businesses and is causing elderly villagers to miss out on valuable social time.

The fire was sparked by a faulty fridge freezer unit at around 11.45am on Easter Monday, with four fire engines attending the scene to put the blaze out.

And with the store shut ever since and with no re-opening date announced yet, Winscombe and Sandford parish councillor Steve Bridges believes the closure is now forcing people to leave the village to get day-to-day goods, denting the passing trade previously enjoyed by neighbouring shops.

He said: “Elderly people rely on the shop for their daily goods, and also to allow them to get out into the community and speak to people. At the moment they’re just sitting at home.

“It’s really affected trade in the village centre.

“I know there’s some work to be done in there, but it’s been nearly a month since the fire, and we haven’t seen any workers doing anything there.

“They need to start doing work urgently, as it’s turning into a ghost town.”

Clive Litster, owner of Litsters Butchers in Woodborough Road, agreed, saying: “Everybody’s been affected in the centre of the village by this, of course they have.

“People like to use what’s here in the village, but if they’ve now got to go to other places to get what they need then that’s going to have a big effect on us in the centre.”

A spokesman for the Co-Operative Society said: “Last month’s fire caused considerable damage, and extensive repairs are needed to ensure the store is up to our high standard before it can re-open.

“Until we can re-open, we are running free mini-bus service for customers, from the Woodborough Road store to our food store in nearby Yatton, twice a week every Tuesday and Friday. We apologise to customers for any inconvenience caused.”

Staff from the store have been temporarily relocated to other branches in Axbridge, Yatton and Worle while the repair work is done.

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