Community commitment and council cash saves two East Devon village shops under threat of closure

Villagers who rallied round to save two East Devon village shops have been praised for their determination in saving their community hubs.

Two village shops, under threat of closure, have been given a lifeline by their local communities, together with a council grant, writes local democracy reporter Philip Churm.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) heard how Chardstock shop and post office was due to close after the current owners announced their retirement and were unable to find a new commercial buyer.

EDDC’s Community Grant Panel discussed efforts by the local community to save the shop, which would include a post office facility and serve as a social hub for the village.

Chardstock residents came together and raised around £250,000 in just a few months to take over the shop and separate it from the attached house.

The council agreed to give £1,620 to Chardstock Community Shop from the Community Buildings Fund which would help in the legal process of separating the two parts of the building and provide some safety measures.

The grant was on condition the applicants share their experience with the council and to successfully complete the separation of the shop from the private dwelling.

David Key, Conservative Councillor for Dunkeswell and Otterhead, praised the work of the local community.

He said: “This has been an absolutely incredible feat, what they’ve done, because there was a possibility – if they couldn’t have got anybody to take it over – they would have lost the post office.”

The panel also agreed to grant £4,000 to Dalwood Community Shop, about three miles west of Axminster, East Devon.

The shop already exists as a community venture and is leased from EDDC.

Shop managers presented plans before the pandemic for a small meeting area to allow local residents to meet informally and reduce social isolation.

The plans were passed at the time but, after significant delays in signing the new lease between the owners and EDDC, the grant was cancelled.

The owners applied for help towards the same project and were granted £4,250 as the local community had successfully raised all the other funds needed.

Councillors on the panel agreed unanimously to the grants for the two community shops.

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