Hopefully if you’re reading this you’ve seen our article in the Village News, you’ve been directed to our website via the shop, a member of the committee has been in touch or you’ve found us via our Facebook page (‘Weston SOS’).
This means that our plan to raise awareness about what’s going on with the shop and the Weston SOS committee is working. The brief summary is that Yasemin, the current owner, is looking to sell the property and the village wanted to have a say in what happens to it – and so a committee was born!
While we haven’t shared a lot of information publicly so far – the Weston SOS (Save our Shop) Committee has been busy in the background. We wanted to ‘get our ducks in a row’ before sharing too much information – but you can expect to see/hear much more from us in the coming weeks and months.
Read on if you want to find out a bit more about what we’ve been up to so far and what our immediate next steps are.
Progress to Date
In terms of what we have been doing – here’s a summary of the progress we’ve made so far:
- We’ve set up this website, email addresses, Facebook page and written the article in the Village News and other local publications. We’ve been working on other printed materials (contact cards & leaflets).
- Meetings with various stakeholders such as Yasemin (the current owner of the shop), the current shop staff, the Parish Council and other groups and familiarising ourselves with the current shop and post office.
- We’ve come up with our 4 stage plan of how we’re going to keep the shop and have started researching, gathering information and assessing the various options (e.g. community ownership, private investors). We’ve also been looking to other examples of community ownership (e.g. Tackley). We need to ensure that if we’re asking for money from the village, we have a strong business case and a clear picture about what we’re offering in return.
- To that end, we’ve been working on a survey that should be available soon for the local community (Weston and nearby villages) to provide their input and give us an indication of the viability of community ownership of the shop. We want to ensure that the option we choose has the support of the village. Please fill out the survey when it’s available!
- We’ve set up the committee itself – appointing various committee positions, creating our code of conduct / constitution and creating a bank account for our initial fundraising. We’ve applied to the Parish Council for a donation to help with these initial costs.
As you can see – even if it might not look it, we have been busy but there’s still lots to do.
Our immediate goals are to:
- Recruit a new Administrator/Secretary to the Committee as Wendy sadly had to step down for family reasons
- Continue raising awareness and gathering support
- Build a team of special advisors and helpers and/or seek professional advice, as appropriate (e.g. legal support, valuations)
- Publish the survey to the local community and start engaging with residents and businesses that may be willing to support us
- Continue our fact-finding/information gathering mission on the viability of the potential routes to buy the shop
- Submit an ‘Expression of Interest’ for the Community Ownership Fund (a matched grant of up to £250k) which will go a long way towards the £575,000 asking price
We find ourselves operating in rapidly evolving circumstances – the future of the Ben Johnson as a pub is also uncertain with a rumoured sale to a developer with an option for the village to buy it (see the Village Meeting Notes). The Post Office and Royal Mail are also in a state of flux – but the Post Office has reiterated the need to keep the Post Office in Weston-on-the-Green. It is a key asset due to the ‘community’ status which provides some fixed income for the shop as an essential community service.
If we’re going to consider the possibility of community ownership/management of the shop, we also need to act swiftly in order to secure the purchase from the current owner in an agreeable timescale.
Thank-you to Yasemin for being so helpful and open with us and for passing on information/contacts. Thank you to everyone that has been in touch, reached out and/or spoken to the committee over the last few weeks – we really appreciate your support. I’d also like to thank the Village Hall for allowing us to use it for our committee meetings.
Please do also get in touch if you have any feedback or anything to share with us.
Sam S (Chair) and the rest of the Weston SOS Committee