Tesco threat sparks charity shop petition

Hundreds sign their names to safeguard ‘vital’ community hub from supermarket development.

A POPULAR South Molton charity shop says it has six months to find alternative premises, or face closure.

The SMR Phoenix Re-use Shop has operated from the corner of Southerly Road for nearly 20 years but has been warned it must vacate the site by September 11 to make way for a proposed Tesco supermarket development.

The shop is expecting landlord North Devon Council to issue formal notice to quit the Central Car Park next month.

Yesterday (Tuesday), shop workers handed over a 1,500 signature petition to the council urging the authority to help safeguard the shop’s future.

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Petition organiser, shop worker Melanie Shiner, said all the signatures had come from people who visited the shop during the last three weeks and that the plight of the shop was very much ‘under the radar’.

“From talking to many of these people it is clear that they are not aware that the re-use shop is included in the plans to regenerate the area,” she said.

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“The feedback we are getting from people who use this shop is that they don’t want another supermarket in the centre of town.

“The shop is very popular with many people of all different ages, not just from South Molton. People simply love this shop – sometimes the aisles are busier in here than in Tesco.

“It is very much an integral part of the unique chemistry that makes South Molton so quintessentially unique but this spring will herald the beginning of the end of SMR Phoenix’s present location.”

Each year, the shop takes �150,000 through the till alone and recycles upwards of 130 tonnes of glass, newspapers, foil, tin cans, cardboard, milk bottles and textiles.

The shop and its sister shop in Barnstaple offer jobs and opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable adults as well as GNVQ training courses for students, and placements for those doing community pay back with the Probation Service.

Manager Calum Robb urged the council to consider including the shop as part of any plans to regenerate the area, or to extend the shop’s lease until such time as regeneration work started.

He said money had been set aside to look at alternative premises but time was now critical. Possible locations include a unit in Barnstaple Street, and area inside the pannier market, but a move away from South Molton has not been ruled out.

He said: “The centre has become an important community hub and it is so important that we keep a central location in the town; but if there is nothing here then we may have to look elsewhere outside the town.

“This is the perfect location and to find somewhere else like this would be extremely difficult.

“We don’t think we can replace what we have but when we get the notice in March, we’ll have to make a decision about what we’re going to do.”

Accepting the shop petition on behalf of North Devon Council on Tuesday, South Molton ward member councillor John Moore said he would attempt to present the petition to the chief executive at tonight’s full council meeting.

“The shop has done a terrific job collecting all these signatures in such a short space of time and the council now has to listen to local people,” he said.

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