County saves 15 village shops

Fifteen communities have had the future of their village shops secured by Devon County Council. The shops are being given annual grants of �5,000 by the council for the next three years plus free business advice to enable shop owners and managers to revi

FIFTEEN communities have had the future of their village shops secured by Devon County Council.The shops are being given annual grants of �5,000 by the council for the next three years plus free business advice to enable shop owners and managers to revise their business strategies after the removal of support from Post Office Limited (POL).All 15 faced possible closure after last year's changes to the Post Office network.Devon County Council, all eight district councils and Torbay Council teamed up to challenge Post Office Limited's plans to close 37 post offices across Devon and Torbay and replace 32 others with outreach services.Local councillors consulted widely in the towns and villages affected and identified 15 communities where the post office closure would mean the loss of the only shop in the vicinity. They lobbied Post Office Limited strongly to remove some post offices from its planned closure list.Post Office Limited agreed in some cases to "partnered" services with local shop owners, allowing post office counters to remain. But under those arrangements, shop owners lose the financial benefits that they would otherwise have received from POL, and on which many shops relied to support the retail side of their businesses.As a result the county council pledged financial and business support for 15 post office shops, for a period of three years, to help them become viable and sustainable in the long term.* The post office shops being supported are: Ashwater, Blackawton, Bridgerule, Bridestowe, Cheriton Fitzpaine, Chillaton, Dittisham, Lustleigh, Milton Abbot, Newton St Cyres, Plymtree, Postbridge, St Giles on the Heath and Widecombe in the Moor.County council Leader, Cllr Brian Greenslade, said: "The changes announced by Post Office Limited last year would have closed too many post offices and had a huge impact on local people. They could easily have sounded the death knell for the only shop in many communities, and that was something Devon County Council did not want to see happen."Through the grants, which shops are now receiving, and the business advice, we are helping owners, managers and local people have the chance and choice to keep their post office shops open."Devon County Council's Post Office Champion Cllr Gordon Hook said: "Having owned 'the village shop' in a previous life, I know from personal experience how vital the help provided by Devon County Council is to those striving to maintain this service. Certain features are indispensable for a sustainable community and the local shop/post office is certainly one of them. The County Council is determined to do all in its power to maintain the traditional features of rural life in this most beautiful of counties." Holsworthy Rural County Councillor Des Shadrick said: "I welcome the support of the County Council. How precious a lifeline the local post offices are."Torridge District Cllr Barry Parsons said: ""My own village of Ashwater, I know, has been through a tempestuous last few months in which the seemingly inevitable loss of its post office has had an enormous impact. In common with many other areas, the community has put its heart and soul behind efforts to save our post office facility and in its present form because that is what we treasure. "Devon County Council's decision to support 15 communities is, without doubt, a massive boost to those communities. It must be said, however, that not only the district and county councils have made this possible and we are all deeply indebted to those who have supported our cause with such passion and caring concern."The owner of the village store at Ashwater, Barrie Thomas, said.: "Village shops are a lifeline for a great many people and the threat of closure through the loss of the post office has been a worry, not only for the owners, but also for the people who use them. With the help of Devon County Council we are pleased that we can remain open.

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