Nearly 50 parishioners and other non residents attended the meeting called by Jill Jones, Chair of the PC on Friday 5th July to discuss: CAN THE VILLAGE SHOP & POST OFFICE BE SAVED?
The Shop/PO business has been up for sale for nearly 2 years and the Village Plan (2011) had highlighted that the shop and PO was considered a key asset to the village, the meeting was intended to provide a forum to clarify the current situation and suggest what realistically could be done and by whom within the now urgent timeframe.
Peter Littlewood [Oxton Village Shop and PO] explained the current situation with the sale of the shop/PO business – which would likely stay on the market for another 3-4 months pending receiving any viable offer. It was noted that current government has stated that there will be no forced closures of POs so unless Peter resigns or actively seeks redundancy, the PO will keep going.
Robyn Farrar [Oxton Parishioner] reported on her observations of the current users of the Oxton shop which suggested the range of needs to be catered for and potential for developing the business and described a working example of a community-managed village shop (no PO) of similar premise size in a similar size village to Oxton. Funds for this initiative had been raised through a CoOp bank loan, the Plunkett Foundation charity and community ‘shares’. A 5yr, 10yr business plan requires drafting to look at viability for Oxton – noting that bigger premises were not currently available should these prove vital for a viable turnover.
Jan Sablitzky [PC and Oxton Community Fundraisers Trustee] explained the challenge faced in attracting grants and funds from the community. There needed to be a clear vision and strong message as to why funds being asked for were needed urgently for the benefit of the community.
Joan Arnold [Village Plan Group Lead] referred to the Village Plan report that circa 90% of respondents considered the shop and PO important but only circa 53% used it. We need to understand why! It was felt that a community-run shop offered potential for starting afresh and engaging with the community in what products and services were offered and mechanisms for selling them eg questionnaire data collection, review of opening hours, developing a shop website plus deliveries/collections.
Jill asked for a show of hands on 1) whether the shop was still of vital importance to the village and 2) the same question for the PO. Both votes were unanimous in favour of keeping both facilities whilst realizing that they need regular users to sustain them. It was noted that the Parish Council can’t run a business venture but a community group could, and indeed needed to, take the lead – referring to the Village Plan project identifier (ref 25a).
Agreed Action Points from the meeting:
1 – Peter explained he would be reporting back to the PO Network Conciliation on Monday 8th July as to the outcome of the Village Meeting: which was that the village is keen to look at the opportunities re managing the shop and PO.
2 – Robyn Farrar, Ann Roe, Jan Sablitzky, Jill Jones, Marion Reed kindly volunteered to be part of initial working group (name tba) to meet mid-Aug/September in order to come up with further information/ideas and practical action plan with the intention to report back to a further village meeting with options for consideration.