Winchester City Council gives a Helping Hand to Community Shop

In recognition of the heroic efforts of a group of residents in West Meon who have clubbed together to buy and reopen their endangered village shop, Winchester City Council's Members have approved grants totalling £25,000 to help the project on its way. 

The long-neglected shop - which is in a listed building - relaunched last autumn with a range of basic groceries and newspapers, as well as an increasing range of local produce.  The village post office, which was also on the point of closure, moved into the shop to provide another highly valued local service.  A first floor flat has also been established to provide a steady income from lettings to the shop project.

Pamela Collins, who lives in the village and who has led the fundraising programme behind the project, said, "We needed to raise around £160,000 - to buy the business, complete the structural repairs required, rewire, fix the leaking roof, renovate the shop and restock.

"The support from our community has been amazing.  People have contributed to the scheme by providing interest-free loans, buying shares, taking part in special events and patronising the shop.  The Community Shop Association has an impressive 431 members.  We still have plenty more to find, but it's really heartening to see the shop resurrected into a viable and vibrant enterprise."

The planned second phase of the shop project would see the conversion of a back room into an internet café, where older people would be offered training on email to help them stay in touch with members of their family.  A supply of information for visitors to the Meon Valley, which features in an increasing number of tourism guides and leaflets, and a display of locally found museum artefacts would also be included.

George Beckett, Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Economy and Tourism, said, "This is an excellent example of a community pulling together for a common goal.  The West Meon community shop is the result of hard work and inspiration, all by volunteers, and the council's contribution reflects that effort. 

Winchester city council has a corporate aim of promoting economy prosperity, including support for village centres and the rural economy. The West Meon shop is a real model of a community enterprise and will, I am sure, be used as a benchmark for good practice.  I hope it will inspire other communities around the Winchester District - and beyond."