New village shop will fly the flag

Bratton Fleming to lead the way with ‘rare’ rural enterprise

A SHOPKEEPER is set to offer his community a new lifeline by opening what is thought to be the first new village shop to be built in Devon in decades.

Against a national backdrop of 400 village shop closures a year, Steve Cotten is ploughing ahead with plans to open a new private business in the heart of Bratton Fleming.

Mr Cotten, who currently runs the hugely popular Bratton Fleming Stores, has been given planning permission to build a new shop at The Glebe, next to the Millennium Green.

The lease on the existing shop has expired and the new venture will provide a wealth of products, goods and services and help overcome the congestion and parking problems associated with the current store.

The new shop will employ two full-time and five part-time members of staff and construction is expected to start within weeks.

“I’m not just bucking the trend, I’m going completely against the grain,” said Mr Cotten, who took on the village’s existing shop in 2008.

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“Since I took it on business has been flying and I want to show the rest of the country how private individuals can make village shops work.

“It’ll be built by local builders and stock a wide range of locally produced goods, newspapers and magazines. The new shop will sell lottery tickets and I’m hoping to restore a six-and-a-half-day Post Office service.”

Although a number of “community” volunteer-run village shops have opened around the country in the last few years, industry experts said new privately-run rural shops were a “rarity”.

Ken Parsons, chief executive of the Rural Shops Alliance (RSA), an association of retailers that offers support and advice to village shops, said: “There are a few examples of commercial village shops being opened around the country but they are not all that common and this is the first I know of in Devon.

“It’s very hard to calculate figures but our best estimate is that around 400 village shops close every year.

“A lot of smaller shops are suffering because they don’t meet people’s needs. On the other hand, good village shops do very well thank-you very much, and in the current economic climate, people are prepared to shop locally.

“We very much welcome the development and are sure the community will appreciate Mr Cotten’s commitment.”

In 2009, the Gazette reported how Bratton Fleming Parish Council originally intended to build its own shop for the village and lease the business to Mr Cotten.

But when plans floundered due to lack of funds, Mr Cotten stepped in and decided to go it alone.

“Although I’m financing the shop myself, the parish council has been so supportive and has made land available to me for a peppercorn rent,” he said.

“Cllr Malcolm Prowse has also been instrumental in making it happen by helping to guide me through the minefield of the planning process.”

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