Support for community shop in Lavant

People in Lavant are making inroads into creating their very own community hub.

A survey carried out in September found overwhelming support for a new facility, following the closure of Lavant Stores in 2008.

But this time residents want it to be a community shop, similar to successful projects in areas such as Lodsworth.

A total of 434 homes out of 735 (59 per cent) responded to the survey, with 71 per cent of responses saying that a community shop was important or very important for the village. Only four per cent of people who responded said it was not important.

Forty per cent said they wanted it to have a tearoom and more than 80 per cent said they wanted to see a wide range of produce and services offered such as fresh fruit and vegetables, organic freshly baked bread and cakes, stationery and postage, general groceries, a cash point, local information and display and dry cleaning.

Offers of help have also been extended to include volunteering, donations of skills and professional services and help with fundraising.

Chairman of the Lavant Community Shop Steering Group, Caroline Reynolds said: “The idea of what a community shop in Lavant might be is taking hold. Crucially, it is not only about a village shop: it is about the community of Lavant having a shop, in other words it will be the people of Lavant’s shop, belonging to them, run by them, providing the products and services they decide it will provide.

“As well as the range of product lines you expect in such a store, it is also about providing local things - local produce, perhaps from gardens and allotments, local services by local people, even homemade things.”

Two open village meetings were held in February and May, and a steering group was formed in May.

Current members are Mrs Reynolds, her husband Nick, Margaret Rhodes, Pamela Priscott and Philip Hollins, a mixture of both long-term and newer residents.

Regarding a site, survey respondents suggested near the Memorial Hall, the industrial estate and near St Nicholas’ Church. Safe access and good parking were essential.

Mrs Reynolds said at the moment all the groundwork for the project was taking place.

The next big development will be a public meeting in February or March where the project could move forward.

She said the project was more than about being a shop, but a place where people could come together.

“The ones which seem to be successful are the ones which are really representative of the people who live there; people who are able to offer the services they want.

“The word ‘shop’ is not an adequate word to describe it. It’s a place where people can feel involved in the community as well as offering products. It’s about making people’s quality of life in the village much better.”