VENUE: VILLAGE HALL
Attendees: Chair: Jeremy Holtom, Sally Bastock and well supported by members of the public.
Welcome/Purpose of meeting
PPC Chairman Jeremy Holtom welcomed everybody and explained that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future of the village store and post office facilities in the village.
Summary of Kevin Marshall’s announcement, meeting and identified options
At the previous Parish Council meeting Kevin and Jean Marshall had announced their wish to shut the shop at the beginning of November this year. As notices would need to be served they wanted to give the village an opportunity to consider its options going forward.
Kevin outlined 4 potential options:
- Close the shop – The Post Office would provide a travelling service operating from a venue such as the village hall or pub for 2 hours, 1 day per week.
- Rent the shop/Post Office out – either with a different sub-postmaster or Kevin would offer to stay on temporarily as sub-postmaster.
- A shop takeover – where someone just runs the shop. Could have different opening hours but loss of Post Office income would impact its profitability.
- A Community shop – on a different site, with a different Post Office arrangement and potential for different opening times.
At a subsequent meeting in his shop, Kevin gave the PPC a summary of the business and cash and carry figures and outlined the work that would be necessary for the shop to be viable as a separate entity to their home, eg install a separate meter and renew electrics.
The PPC considered it would be difficult to continue the shop in its current setting due to the lack of water supply and toilets, particularly in emergencies, together with a lack of external storage and no parking facilities.
Responses/offers of help from ENPA and West Down Community Shop
In the first instance the PPC contacted the ENPA to establish what the planning situation was. The ENPA’s response was that they did not want to lose the shop facility but there was a statutory period before planning covenants could be lifted. It was also noted that there had been a previous application at the skittle alley.
District Councillor, Andrea Davis, suggested contacting the West Down shop as a useful source of information. Although an offer of help had been made it was considered a bit premature to follow up at this early stage.
Possible alternative locations
- The following were suggested as possible alternative locations for a community shop: The Fox and Goose being in a good location, the toilet block and pavilion, the Village Hall, Church and Kevin Green’s pottery.Kevin confirmed his pottery was out of the question and that Nikki and Paul did not think the skittle alley was a good idea.
Sally and Dave were thanked for devising and circulating the questionnaire to gauge the level of support in the village. Responses would still be accepted if anyone wanted to submit one.
- Questionnaire results and analysis
Although it had not been possible to circulate a full set of results in time for the meeting Jeremy summarised preliminary results (see Appendix A).
- Ways forward what alternatives are open to us, determining our goal
The discussion was opened to the floor and anyone with ideas was invited to speak up in order to agree if a shop was wanted, either in its current form or as a community shop. Comments from the floor included:
- A community shop could by staffed by rota. Guidance and commitment would be required and if it was considered beyond the village’s resources then we may need to think again. It would need a committee and investment. We would also need to see what funding would be available and ask the ENPA for help.
- Difficult to continue a shop in the current location because the shop entrance is their front door. Better to move it to a different location with the planning problem lifted out.
- Paul and Nikki from the Fox and Goose had indicated that they would not be interested in the skittle alley being used as a shop although they would be willing for a visiting Post Office to use their sitting room. Paul may have been under the impression that the commitment and financial investment would fall to them, but if it was being considered on a community run rental basis they may be more interested. It would be in an ideal location and worth weighing up the pros and cons so may warrant a further conversation.
- Regarding use of the village church – while it is known to work elsewhere it is not known what the attitude of the church would be to such a proposal.
- The pavilion and village hall have car parking although the village hall is out of the way. The Pavilion could be a reasonable spot to capture passing trade.
- Increased parking at the church could cause a problem.
- The pavilion could be interesting at it has the potential for more parking. The Parish Council has recently been discussing the need for increased parking in the village. Alternative use would need to be obtained from the ENPA along with a container for storage. It could provide an opportunity for a tearoom.
- A shop run by volunteers in a small village would be a big ask. It may be better to pay a manager with volunteers to support.
- The Post Office income would not transfer to a new location.
Jeremy read out Dave Austin’s summary of his discussions with the Post Office (see Appendix B).
Although Kevin had been helpful in bringing it to the attention of the PPC in May, there was not much time to get organised. A show of hands was almost unanimously in favour of a community shop option.
The next steps would include going to see the community shop in West Down.
The following volunteers came forward to be co-opted on to a sub-committee: Jane Bayliss, Alison Smith, Therese Chapman and Nick Backhouse.
Kevin’s intentions to finish on 3 November, requires a 3 month notice period so a follow-up meeting would be planned for a month’s time.
Questionnaire – Preliminary analysis of results
130 questionnaires were delivered around the village and there was a 48% response.
Question 1 – 94% of respondents thought the shop was very important or important.
Question 2 – 92% of respondents used the shop regularly or occasionally.
Question 3 – 56% would be more likely to us the shop if it sold different food/drink while 32% would not and 13% were neutral.
Question 4 – The 5 main items that would be bought from a village shop were basic items and groceries: bread and bakery 76%, milk 62%, newspapers 52%, vegetables 46% and fruit 38%.
Question 5 – The 5 main facilities that would be used in a village shop were: buy local produce 26%, local information 22%, collection/delivery service 17%, book share 14%, community run projects 13%.
Question 6 – 87% of respondents thought it was very important or important to have a Post office in the village.
Question 7 – 97% of respondents used the Post Office regularly or occasionally.
Question 8 – The 5 main uses of the Post Office were: letter/parcel posting 76%, stamps 70%, cash withdrawals 46%, pay in cheques/deposits 22%, currency 14%.
Usual destinations for general shopping: Unsurprisingly Barnstaple came top with 62%, followed by Local village shops 25%, Local independents 22% and Lynton 19%
Usual destinations for use of Post Office facilities: Parracombe came out top 68%, Other local village Post Offices 13%, Lynton 11% and Barnstaple 8%.
Summary of Post Office options from Dave Austin
Post Office – I spoke with Matt Walls, Field Change Advisor at the Post Office.
Current Post Office
Parracombe is currently operated as a ‘Community Status’ Post Office, this status is held by Kevin as the current Postmaster. As Kevin outlined, he may transfer the status via a commercial transfer but the business must remain on the same premises. Should there be any break in service the ‘Community Status’ will cease and a new operating model would be implemented for any new application. Matt advised that there have been a few instances where the new operator has taken over temporarily onsite keeping the ‘Community Status’ then relocating it to a new location, that way keeping the ‘Community Status’ as it is. This way there is also the opportunity to apply for the Community Grant, details of which can be found at www.postofficecommunityfund.co.uk
Alternative Operating Model
The new operating model in the case of a new store, i.e. no ‘Community Status’ transfer, is a Post Office Local. This model has a fee related payment (Transaction Related Pay) only, it does not attract a salary. The estimated fees per annum for a Post Office Local in Parracombe are £1350 – £1500 based on business history. As the payment is based on TRP there would be the opportunity to increase the fees should a new community shop attract more customers. Set up costs for a Post Office Local would be covered by Post Office Ltd. The Community Grant is not available for a PO Local.
Royal Mail Contract
The Royal Mail element is a separate contract that Royal Mail deal with. Matt contacted the Royal Mail liaison and they confirmed that if the branch transfers or relocates that the Royal Mail element would not be renewed. Therefore, even if a solution was found to maintain the ‘Community Status’ the Royal Mail payment would no longer be applicable. This would mean the payment made by Royal Mail would no longer be received.
Matt advised us to apply as a Community Shop Group, whoever the Post Office contract with must have some form of legal ‘personality’ i.e. individual, partnership, company, or other association that falls within the terms of Industrial Provident Societies Act, and any subsequent statute to that.
Should the Community Shop not be achievable and the branch closes in November Matt would look to introduce a hosted service. This would involve an existing Post Office operator from nearby attending once a week for two hours to operate a service from a public building such as the village hall. This is to provide a Post Office service to those customers who are unable to get to any other alternative branches.
Shop Location – Potential Use of the Fox and Goose Skittle Alley
I spoke with Nikki regarding the potential for any new store to be located in the skittle alley building. Nikki mentioned that she had had a conversation with you and indicated to you that they would not consider it due to its use as storage for the pub. There are also implications for them as a business in having a shop on their premises. After our conversation today Nikki came back to be and said on reflection that she and Paul remain open to discussion and the possibility of using a part of the building for a community store.
I have taken an initial look at the resources available to us, funding opportunities and support networks etc. and there’s lots out there to help. Once we have determined what the community are looking for, goals for the project (assuming there is one!) and a way forward we can put some focus on our efforts.