The Shop project!
Norton sub Hamdon Community Land Trust Ltd. is dedicated to keeping Norton and its environs sustainable. The Directors and members are fully committed to doing everything in their power to keep the shop in Norton open to serve the people of this village and the surrounding villages, thus enhancing the experience of living here, helping to ensure the economic and social viability of the village for the long term future, maintaining property values and providing a focus for community involvement.
It is evident that without the commitment both of time for volunteering and of money for investment from the members of the community, the shop project would not have succeeded.
While the Shop, with or without the Post Office, cannot reasonably be viewed as a viable commercial proposition, as a Community Shop, where profit is not the main driving force, it does generate enough revenue to sustain the Shop to be viable and contribute to a Community Fund for the further enhancement, protection or sustainability of Norton sub Hamdon and its environs and neighbouring communities.
HERE IS HOW IT ALL CAME TO FRUITION!
In 2014 The Norton Community Land Trust was approached to secure the future of the only village shop in Norton sub Hamdon as a community run enterprise.
To help sustain the economic and social viability of the rural community.
To provide retail goods and services from a convenient location for the benefit of the community of Norton sub Hamdon, its neighbouring parishes and environs.
To provide a service for local people and groups by community networking, promoting local businesses and village activities, and providing a vehicle for the continuation of the existing Post Office.
To provide a community hub and information centre.
To provide services such as dry-cleaning pick-up, and a centre for delivery and collection.
To be a not-for-profit enterprise owned by the community for the benefit of the community.
To provide an opportunity for voluntary work and training.
To be a democratic and inclusive enterprise in which the whole community of Norton sub Hamdon and its environs shall have the opportunity to participate
If the Community Land Trust, an appropriate, official organisation, already registered and experienced, did not take over the Shop as a Community Enterprise, it would have closed, as it was not commercially viable. The then owner could no longer run it. If the Shop closed, so too would the Post Office.
The Community Shop would help to ensure:
The long-term sustainability of Norton sub Hamdon and its environs and neighbouring Parishes by providing a convenience store within walking distance for its main customer base;
The continuation of the availability of postal services;
The availability of goods and services for those members of the community who do not wish or cannot afford to run a car or second car in families where the main car is used for work;
Local employment and volunteering opportunities;
A community hub, located in the centre of the village, where local services can be accessed, tickets bought for local events, information made available and a focus for local activities;
The sustainability of property values for homes in the village. Statistical evidence from the Plunkett Foundation showed that the presence of a Shop in a rural Parish added an average of 5% to the value of property;
The sustainability of local businesses, through the Post Office, for whom the services provided were a vital link.
There remained a long-term risk that the bus service may be lost, in which case the continued presence of a Shop becomes even more vital.
The CLT would rent the shop unit, including Post Office, together with the two store areas, from Mike Orchard for an appropriate rent payable annually in advance. The amount to be paid would be agreed between the CLT and Mike Orchard, following appropriate professional consultation.
Mike Orchard would retain ownership of the freehold of the site, including the additional unit which he would rent out. Outside spaces for access and parking would continue to be shared as at present.
The Community Land Trust would buy all existing fixtures and fittings in the shop, store and garage at a value to be agreed between the CLT and Mike Orchard, following appropriate professional consultation.
The Community Land Trust would buy all existing stock at a value to be agreed between the CLT and Mike Orchard, following appropriate professional consultation.
The hours during which the Shop would be open would differ slightly and it was considered that the Shop should be open for at least 5½ days per week. This would be determined in consultation with the Board, the Manager and the Volunteers. Saturday afternoons and/or Sunday mornings may have been considered if expedient.
Staffing the Shop
Each Director would have a specific area of responsibility. The CLT would employ one Shop Manager for forty hours per week at an agreed salary. This has now been split across two people to provide better service to the community. One Director would have specific responsibility for organisation of the management of the manager and deputy. Should the need arise, employment of additional personnel would be considered in the future.
The Manager would report directly to the Board. Responsibilities assigned to the Manager and those retained by the Board would be determined by consultation between the Board and the Manager and would form part of their contract of employment.
The CLT, together with the Shop Manager, would recruit and train sufficient volunteers to assist both in the shop and with other aspects of the business, thus encouraging community involvement.
It was also planned to work in partnership with Stanchester School and other agencies to provide work experience for young people and those wishing to return to work.
The Role of Volunteers
The Community Shop project entirely depended on Volunteers. If insufficient people were prepared to help, the project would fail. It was anticipated that the rota for serving in the shop would be divided into three shifts per day, each of 3 or 3 ½ hours, though variations may be considered to suit individual requirements.
In addition to serving, other roles would include shelf filling, stock taking, cleaning, handyman tasks, administration, financial assistance, and many other opportunities.
It was recognised that the social advantages of volunteering could be attractive. In itself, volunteering in the shop would be a good way to meet people, to be involved in, and to give something back to the community. It was anticipated that there would be occasional social events for volunteers.
It was hoped that both young people and those wishing to return to work would see volunteering as a useful introduction to the world of work and would gain valuable experience by joining the team, even if only for a short period.
The Post Office
The premises rented from Mike Orchard would include the area occupied by the Post Office.
Mike Orchard would continue to run the Post Office for the first year. A decision about its future would be taken after that time, following consultation between Norton sub Hamdon Community Land Trust Ltd., Mike Orchard and Post Offices Ltd. It was considered to be of benefit to the community to negotiate a new contract, on a Company to Company basis, to continue with the Post Office, for as long as revenue from the shop could sustain inevitable losses from the Post Office.
Foot fall indicated that customers using the Post Office and those using the Shop were not necessarily the same people. Neither business contributed significantly to the other.
The Post Office did not generate a profit and should be considered as a service only.
New staff for the Post Office would undergo training and it was unlikely that volunteers would, in the first instance, be available or able to man it in accordance with Post Office requirements.
Community and Customers
Norton Village Store was and remains the only retail shop in Norton sub Hamdon. While to most customers it is a convenience store, to some it is where they do much of their grocery and household shopping.
Chiselborough and West and Middle Chinnock have lost their shops and many people from both Parishes use the shop in Norton. Altogether, in the villages of Norton, Chiselborough and the Chinnocks there are about 750 households, or a population of around 2,000 people. Additionally, there are other surrounding population centres which have either lost a shop or have never had one.
Census figures suggested that of this, approximately 25% are under 25, 50% are aged 25 – 70 and 25% are over 70 years of age.
Following a public meeting in March 2014, a questionnaire was delivered to every household in the three parishes of Norton sub Hamdon, Chiselborough and West and Middle Chinnock and to the hamlet of Wigborough. It was also made available in Stoke sub Hamdon, though not delivered door-to-door.
The questionnaire sought to quantify the customer base, their strength of feeling for and support of the Shop, what they do value about the shop, what goods they buy and services they use and what they might like to see in the future.
A Public Meeting was held on March 26th, 2014, attended by approximately 160 people from Norton sub Hamdon, Chiselborough, West and Middle Chinnock and other villages and hamlets which would be affected by the closure of the shop.
Directors of the CLT and guest speakers from Wessex Community Assets, and Seavington Community Shop explained aspects of the Project, including how the Shop would be managed, the need for volunteers to make it happen, and for investment from the community and how the Project might be financed. It was stressed that without members of the community being prepared to volunteer to give time to help in the shop or in other ways, it would not be possible for the CLT to proceed.
The need for investment from the community was also emphasised. It was explained that, while grants may be available, it was essential to be able to show a commitment from the community in order to apply for any grant funding.
An indicative Pledge Document was given to every attendee. Subsequently it was delivered to every house in Norton and Chiselborough. It was also available in the Shop.
117 pledges were received before publication of this document. Opportunities to pledge would remain open. The results were analysed by the Board to assist them to make a recommendation to the Members at a General Meeting of the CLT.
And this led to the successful take over the Shop as a Community Enterprise