Villagers move closer to saving shop in Neatishead

Residents in Neatishead, near Hoveton, are celebrating a major step forward in their plans to re-open the village shop as a community enterprise.

White House Stores had been an important resource for local families and holiday boaters for more than 60 years until it went into administration last December.

Its closure left 1,200 residents in Neatishead and the neighbouring villages of Barton Turf and Irstead facing a journey into Hoveton or Stalham just to buy basic supplies.

However, a public meeting last month resolved to fight to save the shop and a fundraising committee set up has now secured agreement in principle for a grant of up to �30,000 from the North Walsham-based Victory Housing Trust.

The promised grant comes on top of �26,800 already pledged by local residents and has left the committee confident of being able to go ahead with the purchase.

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The committee, which needs to raise �30,000 from local residents to trigger the full �30,000 Victory Housing Trust grant, is also seeking further sources of funding to reach the purchase price which, subject to a survey, still has to be agreed.

Committee member Brian Wigglesworth, of School Road, a retired headteacher, said the aim was to have the shop open again before Christmas.

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Residents would be able to buy shares – �10 for a membership share and �100 for an investment share – in an enterprise set up as an industrial and provident society for the benefit of the community. A second public meeting was likely to be called in the next two weeks which would herald the start of share sales.

He said: 'We are working on a business plan and will be listening closely to the community to find out what people want in the shop.

'In addition to selling basic supplies we are considering food-box deliveries for people who are not mobile. We are also keen to link up with farmers to stock local vegetables and meat.'

Local craft sales were planned and there would be a coffee shop to attract holidaymakers visiting the staithe.

He said the preferred option was to employ a shop manager supported by volunteers; there would hopefully be opportunities for youth training.

Fellow committee Martin Arnold, of Sow's Loke, Neatishead, said the need for the shop had been highlighted by a social survey carried out in the village which found 21pc of residents were socially disadvantage with no transport.

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