East Morton Community Shop: Serving the community as a strong social hub.

In 2015, the public toilets in East Morton, a 1950’s concrete structure, were due for closure. A small number of residents began to think about whether the building could be put to an alternative use. The idea of a community shop began to take shape, and the idea was taken out to a wider audience.

Initial consultation proved positive and in early 2016, after the formation of a Steering Group, outline planning permission was gained for change of use. A favourable asset transfer agreement was negotiated with Bradford Council, and East Morton Community Shop was registered as a Community Benefit Society.

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In May 2018, the Bright Ideas Fund awarded 8 days of advisory support worth £10,050. This helped East Morton Community Shop to consult and engage with local people and to develop and work in partnership with local suppliers and small businesses, including groups and individuals who provide supplementary social activities in the village.

The Bright Ideas grant also enabled the management committee volunteers to undertake:

  • Training, coaching and mentoring;
  • Study visits to established community shops;
  • Exchange of good practice as a source of learning and inspiration
  • Community consultation & engagement;
  • Outreach activities and pop up events
  • Market research and business plan development;
  • Payment of legal and insurance costs

The business development support, particularly the study visits, and the guidance and support received under the Bright Ideas programme helped to build and increase project credibility. In particular, it created leverage towards the group securing a major award (£160,913) from the National Lottery Community Fund in November 2018.

The grant was awarded for building work, fitting out of the shop, purchase of initial stock, and a versatile EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) payments system. It also helped to create and fund new employment opportunities and two members of retail staff were recruited and trained.

Training volunteers

The volunteers were also trained to assist with the day to day running of the shop, which has helped them to develop new and transferable skills in a safe and supportive environment.

Volunteering in the shop provides an opportunity to work with and to meet neighbours in the wider community, generating community support and integration.

Volunteering has proved especially attractive to anyone who is lonely or socially excluded, and the volunteers gain great satisfaction in contributing to village life in such a positive way. The shop also acts as a meeting space in the heart of the village where older residents or young parents can meet and interact.

Contributing to the local economy

The management committee is particularly proud of the shop’s contribution to the local economy. The ethos is to support other local business as far as possible, and in a short time they have developed relationships with many local suppliers, and they also work in partnership with several small independent businesses and voluntary organisations.

The professional skills and personal support that everyone has contributed to the project have helped to make the shop a focal point and social hub for the whole community.

Police office in the shop smiles at the camera holding a water bottle

Building capacity and good practice

The group initially were concerned about internal capacity and perceived volunteer management and supporting young volunteers to be a challenge.  However, after the study visits, which provided the group with an opportunity to see volunteer management in action, the group gained further knowledge and felt far more confident.

The enterprise is committed to minimising environmental impact as far as space and income allow. The ethos is one of avoiding waste, recycling wherever possible, and minimum use of energy and plastic packaging. Environmentally friendly fixtures and fittings were used, and any changes to the building were undertaken with the intention of creating an environmentally friendly and efficient space.

Insulation, energy-efficient fridges, LED lighting helped to achieve this, and re-cycled or second-hand furniture was obtained where appropriate.

The most recent development is an eco-refilling station where customers can fill up on washing up liquid, non-bio laundry liquid, hand wash, fabric conditioner and toilet cleaner.

The vision

  • To provide daily groceries and other products with an emphasis on fresh local produce.
  • To offer the option of a box scheme with a weekly delivery of specific fresh items such as fresh fish, subject to demand and feedback.
  • To provide tertiary services to meet the needs of individuals, e.g. parcel collection, food boxes, newspapers, dry cleaning, pharmacy etc.
  • To create a social hub and enhance social connections within the village.
  • To develop volunteering, training and employment opportunities and increase links with local schools and colleges; the recruitment of an apprentice is a longer-term aim.
  • To provide a resource for non-drivers in the immediate area, and a delivery service based upon identified need.

How did they do it?

In the early stages of 2016, the groups received action planning support from the Plunkett Foundation, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Supplementary mentoring support was also funded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, after which the group successfully secured a further eight days’ of Plunkett support through the Bright Ideas programme.

Chairman, Richard Tassell said:  “The first step was to form a steering committee and then we began to plan a fundraising strategy and we started to apply to grant funders”.

  • A feasibility study was then undertaken through consultation and discussions with Bradford Council who owned the vacant building.
  • Further consultation and meetings with the Plunkett Foundation and extensive consultation with residents, led to the conclusion that the project would be viable provided that sufficient funding, recruitment of volunteers and regular customers could be achieved.
  • A Management Group was formed, a bank account opened, and the project was registered with the FCA. East Morton Community Shop Ltd was established as a Community Benefit Society on 3rd February 2016.
  • The conversion and transformation of the building into a viable business were planned in 3 phases.
  • The first phase of the project involved the conversion of the building with a small extension. Planning permission was granted, and a community shares offer was launched in October 2016 to raise funds. A small start-up grant was awarded from the Craven Trust with some additional support from the Village Society.

A picture of the shop from the outside

  • The initial share offer raised £11,500 which was sufficient to undertake external work to the building.
  • Further donations from the local Gala committee and the North Eastern Horticultural Society, (NEHS – Improving Landscapes) enabled the project to improve access, and to landscape the garden area.
  • At the end of 2017, the external work was completed.
  • At the start of January 2018, the second phase required internal work to be completed, and after further fundraising, the 3rd and final phase was fully completed.

Making a difference to real people

As a small village shop, the shop is able to offer benefits and services that large supermarkets cannot provide.

Community ownership and democratic control of the shop means they can:

  • Be a small operational business that has the flexibility to respond to and meet identified social and practical needs within the community.
  • Protect vital local services and key facilities that may otherwise have been lost
  • Focus on reducing loneliness and increasing social contact.
  • Provide a social hub, embracing the New Economics Think Tank’s statement, ‘Local shops tend to act like social glue that holds communities together in a way that big retail giants cannot’.
  • Encourage collective prosperity, with the ability to reinvest any surplus profit into the local community, supporting other local events and activities.
  • Minimise car usage and traffic flow by encouraging walking to a local shop and thus improving health and well-being.
  • There is no minimum spend as required for the supermarket home delivery service.
  • Provide local people with a meaningful stake in the future development of the place in which they live and / or work
  • Nurture community involvement with active attendance and member contributions welcomed at society meetings
  • Increase local participation and activity with plans and priorities being determined by local people in the community.
  • Help the community business (and asset) to develop sustainability with the added bonus of being able to identify further opportunities in the future.

A picture of the shop front with flowers and a blackboard

A sense of achievement and next steps

Richard Tassell (Chairman)said:

“It was always the vision of Dr Carolyn Williams, who was on our committee until her sad death last December, that the shop should not only be a shop but that it should also be a social hub.  There is strong evidence that this is now happening; people come in to spend the time of day with us, they have a tea or coffee or sample our range of local produce.

“Bright Ideas helped our project so much and we were able to develop clearer plans of where we were travelling. There is no doubt the Bright Ideas funding gave us more confidence, and the support of an adviser and the other professionals was invaluable.”  

Find out if the Bright Ideas Fund could help your community business idea