Yasemin’s Letter for Village Meeting

This letter from the current Weston Pantry Shop & Post Office owner Yasemin Olcay was shared with residents at the village meeting on 22nd February.

What is it all about?

The Post Office came to this village 172 years ago when there were three shops. The world has evolved since then, far too many villages have lost their services/community hubs. Some are lamenting those days and some trying to rebuild them again, we only have to look at the recent efforts in Kirtlington.

At Weston, we are lucky thus far…we are the only fully functioning PO & Shop within a 5 mile radius with Kidlington and Bicester being the nearest POs. The Government guideline for a PO is 3 miles.

The future of our Post Office with its protected existence, known as ‘Community Status’ is not up to the Post Office HQ and currently it is not up to the village either. Its future is solely in the hands of the incumbent sub-postmaster which leaves the village in a precarious position.

Over 6 years ago, our sub-postmaster of the time called it in and we came very close to losing the service altogether. I then delved into taking on the unknown world of PO & Village Shops.

6 years on, our Post Office in Weston has quadrupled in footfall and has evolved into a banking hub and full postal service for local businesses, cottage industries and individuals not just in our own village but for villages miles around. It is by now no secret I was due to put the shop & Post Office on the market at the end of last month for personal reasons.

Some villagers who got to hear about this felt our communtiy should be given a chance to take ownership.

The concerns raised were; will the new owners be as community minded as the existing team of Ruth, Wiz, Sarah, Sam, Christine, Colin and myself which over the last 6 years has also included my mother, Helen Nicholson and Patti Forbes.

A further concern, as is happening everywhere, will the new owners have an end game in sight…is a three bedroom house on Church Road with off street parking and a courtyard garden worth quite a bit more than a shop & PO in real estate value? Sadly the answer is ‘yes, it is’ and if realised, it would mean a devaluation of all our homes in Weston on the Green.

As a villager, I total share those concerns.

There seems to be a misunderstanding about Community Shops & Pubs which is they are run by volunteers. The most successful ones are run by paid staff especially when taking over an existing business, holding its own or by granting of leaseholds to those as approved by the community.

We should have a vision for where we have chosen to live. Despite the challenges we are face with, we can take control and map out the future of our village, our neighbouring villages who are our friends not lucky enough to have what we have, but embrace us as the wider community as we do them.

Do we want to keep this community ethos alive or don’t we? – That is what this meeting is all about. Discussions, decisions will be solely for the benefit of the village and our wider community.

My presence at the meeting will be as the residing shop owner and sub-postmaster. I will not be able to make any comments or give recommendations as a villager but will be happy to answer any questions as to the complexities or owning the PO contract and a fully licensed shop.