Canterton Stores in Preston Candover has long been the only village shop within the valley but for many years has not been a profitable venture for its owners. Rob and Jane Marks bought the shop along with their house in 2009 and have worked hard to keep it open but at some financial cost to them. In 2013 they made the difficult decision to inform the community that the shop was no longer viable and that they would be closing it. Appreciating its value as an asset to the area, Rob and Jane very kindly agreed to keep the shop open if it could be established that there was interest in setting up a community run store. To this end, in 2013 Preston Candover Parish Council distributed a survey to valley households to establish whether the community would make use of such an outlet. Six hundred questionnaires were sent out and nearly two hundred replied which is a satisfactory return, giving confidence to the data. The results of this survey were presented at a public meeting and showed that 56% of residents felt it was extremely important for the valley to have a shop and that 32% would use it on a weekly basis with a further 35% stating they would use it occasionally. Several more meetings followed including a useful and inspiring meeting with the Plunkett Foundation* (http://www.plunkett.co.uk/) at which 9 people got serious and formed a committee to take things further.
Committee members Bob Wood (Chairman), Clare Armstrong, Jane Ballard, Carolyn Dawnay, Alison Ellett, Sarah Saunders, Denise Waite (joint Treasurer), Claire Willmott and Nevil Wilson (joint Treasurer) met for the first time in January 2014 (click here to download the minutes of the committee meetings) in the hope of taking this exciting project forward to become a reality. (Please see the welcome page for an up to date list of members of the committee.)
Since then, several members have been on a study tour visiting three community stores. Seeing the community stores in action was hugely motivating with headline figures to encourage all that this is a worthwhile venture.
Milland was the first shop visited. Opened in 2011, it is 130 sqm and has an annual turnover of £180,000 serving a community of 800.
Kirdford Village Stores was the second store and opened in 2010. The village is made up of 250 households and there is little passing trade but the turnover is £500,000. It is 230 sqm.
The final store visited was Lodworth Larder. It is a petite 55 sqm with a surprisingly high turnover of £250,000 pa.
These numbers are not typographical errors! A profitable community store is possible. For further information on the study tour please click here.
In July 2014, the committee presented its vision for the Candover Valley Community Store to members of the Valleys’ Parish Councils and was hugely encouraged by the support and enthusiasm they showed. The business plan was also reviewed by the Plunkett Foundation* and a member of the Cooperative Bank and we are pleased to say they didn’t have much use for their red pens.
In September 2015, a public exhibition was held to present the plans for the store to the residents of the parish and the wider community. Full details of the exhibition can be found here and a full report on the feedback received can be found here.
Following the public exhibition in 2015 the trustees of the village hall in Preston Candover, offered the opportunity to house the new store in an extension of the village hall. The committee considered this in detail and accepted the offer. Plans and detailed costings for the extension were then drawn up but it became apparent that the costs involved in extending the village hall were escalating for both the CVCS committee and the village hall trustees, and the complications of building an extension to the village hall were too great to make the plan workable.
In January 2018 it was agreed that a stand-alone store could be sited alongside the village hall, on Preston Farm’s land and about 15 metres to the north of the hall.
Lord Sainsbury agreed to lease the necessary land and the village hall agreed to share the car park for customer parking and to allow pedestrian access to the new store.
The store will be a simple, timber clad single storey building with a pitched roof and a covered entrance porch at one corner. Smaller in scope and scale than the original proposal there will be no vehicle parking or landscaping on the field to minimise its impact. Planning permission for the stand-alone store was granted in early March 2018.
2018 looks to be a very exciting year for the community store project.
*The Plunkett Foundation is a national organisation supporting the development of community shops. It has over 300 community shops in its network so has plenty of experience to offer.