I learned something new yesterday. It concerns community-owned village shops.

After research, I found that community-owned village shops have started springing all around the UK and continue to be one of the leading success stories of the UK co-operative and social enterprise movement.

I came across an organisation called the Plunkett Foundation (here). Around 400 commercial village shops close each year:  In 1993, there were only 23 community-owned shops in the UK, but now there are over 300. Take a look at the numbers:

  • ronnieSpace: 214,942 sq ft
  • Around 140 new community shops opened over the last five years
  • People: 945 staff; 7796 volunteers, 51,510 members
  • Services: 174 post offices, 130 cafes and 6,666 suppliers of goods and services

The Plunkett Foundation claim to be the only national organisation supporting the development of community shops in the UK. From their website:

  • Through specialist support programmes, regional community advisers, mentors and experts, as well as online, telephone and email support, we are able to help communities to open new community-owned shops and existing ones to thrive.
  • Plunkett hosts a dedicated website for community shops at www.communityshops.coop where you can access an up to date directory of all community shops trading in the UK, as well as an interactive forum, and wide range of tools and resources.   

Ecology Building Society has launched a bespoke mortgage package for community-owned shops, helping to tackle the lack of services and isolation in rural areas.  The mortgage is available to organisations that are members of, or receiving advice from, the Plunkett Foundation.

The mortgage package is available to new or existing community shops on terms from 10 to 30 years and offers tiered interest rates linked to the level of equity raised by the group.

Lower interest rates are available for community shops that can demonstrate three years’ successful trading. For each successful mortgage completion, Ecology will donate 25 per cent of its application fee to the Plunkett Foundation – enough to provide initial support to at least five fledgling community enterprises.

The full story from Mortgage Finance Gazette is here.

Martin Pollins
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