MP’s praise for community at reopening of south Norfolk Post Office
18:28 21 March 2014
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman praised a village’s sense of community, spirit of rural enterprise and never say never attitude as he launched a new community-run Post Office.
He lauded the efforts of villagers in Rockland All Saints as an example of the Big Society in action, while cutting the ribbon to launch the Rocklands Community Shop and Post Office on Friday (March 21), which provides a village shop and cafe, as well as the Post Office counter.
Hundreds of residents rallied round to save the branch in The Street when previous owners Alan and Elaine Johnson announced they wished to retire after 23 years.
An industrial provident society, the Rocklands Community Shop Ltd (RCSL) was set up to sell membership shares to take over the Post Office and shop, raising £45,740, with 210 people, or 40pc of villagers, buying shares.
The RCSL also received a £47,730 grant from the Prince’s Countryside Fund for staff and refurbishment, £5,744 from the Big Lottery Fund for the start up costs of the new cafe, £2,000 from the Plunkett Foundation for administration and set up costs and £1,300 from Breckland District Council for more efficient freezers and chillers.
The Co-Op also granted £752 towards legal costs.
Speaking after cutting the ribbon, Mr Freeman said: “I am the least important person to be standing here doing this because this is a true community effort and an example of the power of community.
“This shows the spirit of rural enterprise and never-say-never attitude that people in cities sometimes take for granted.”
Following his speech, he said the government would support Post Offices through its £1bn investment in rural broadband, which would enable the branches to become 4G enabled wireless hubs, but also create the conditions for rural businesses to start, which would be dependent on the Post Office for services.
RCSL chairman Roger Steel said he believed other villagers could have community shops as well and cited other examples of community shops in Norfolk, such as at Great Ryburgh and Itteringham.
The key, he said, was communication with other villagers through newsletters and articles in the press.
He added: “The more we spoke about it and the more we spoke to the Post Office, the more of a nightmare we thought we had let ourselves in for, but what an incredible village we have here in Rockland.
“They came about and helped us in so many ways and that is one of the reasons why we can’t name individuals.”
The shop has three full time and two part time staff, as well as 35 volunteers who help out.
The new branch is open Monday to Friday 7.30am-6.30pm, Saturday 7.30am-5.30pm and Sunday 8.30am-1pm.