Harriett Baldwin, MP for West Worcestershire, “cut the ribbon” on Friday 7 June to officially open Lower Broadheath Community Shop and Post Office at The Bell Inn, Martley Road.
The Bell Inn, which is at the heart of the community, has allowed space in an area of the pub garden alongside the car park for a new building for a much-needed Community Shop and Post Office.
When Lower Broadheath Stores and Post Office closed two years ago it was then over a mile to the nearest shop, which was hard to reach without a car. A mobile Post Office was set up in the car park of The Bell Inn on a Monday morning as a temporary solution.
Lower Broadheath Community Shop Ltd sold shares to the community to help set up a community shop and raised almost £40,000. There were several important grants - £10,000 from the National Lottery Awards for All, the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation gave £10,000, Pub is the Hub gave £3,000 and several other charities made smaller donations.
Landlord of The Bell Inn, Ian Davies, and his wife Lyndsey got permission from the pub owners for an area of the pub garden to be used for a new building for a shop and Post Office.
The shop is now run by more than 50 volunteers from teenagers to pensioners and 14 of these volunteers have undergone the additional training to serve Post Office customers. There are two part-time managers – Jessica Ronan and Victoria Howells.
Very convenient for those without cars, or with businesses in the village
Mark Glossop, Chairman of Lower Broadheath Community Shop Ltd, said: “The community has been really positive about the new community shop and Post Office because they were really needed in the village. People have been surprised about how much stock is on sale as the building doesn’t look that big from the outside. We have a big focus on selling local produce to support local producers.
“People really appreciate the Post Office being open much longer hours as they now have more choice when to visit as the nearest Post Office had been two miles away, which was difficult without a car. It is very convenient for those without cars, but also for those with businesses in the village who can bring their takings or for those local business people who sell items online.
“The social centre has proved a great meeting place for the community, especially the lonely and the isolated. We have mums from the village with their children to pensioners. Our shop volunteers, many of whom are retired, have also said that their new roles have given them a sense of purpose and they feel useful again and they also really enjoy meeting the community. We also have young people gaining work experience.”
Harriett Baldwin MP, said: “This new community-run shop and Post Office is fantastic news for the people of Lower Broadheath. It really shows what a community can achieve when they all work together to reach a vital goal. The shop looks great and the volunteers and managers are doing a marvellous job.”
Simon Townsend, Chief Executive of EI Public Partnership (formerly Enterprise Inns), which owns the pub, joined the community celebrations, with refreshments at The Bell Inn.
Lyndsey Davies, Landlady of The Bell Inn, said: “It was very important for the community to have a shop and a Post Office again. We were in the ideal location across the road from the former shop and Post Office, so we wanted to be able to help. The community is thrilled and really enthused.”
The shop sells household essentials, newspapers and local produce including milk, cheese, crisps, honey, eggs, ice cream, bakery, meats and beer. There is a wide range of Post Office services.
A huge team effort by the community
John Longden, Chief Executive of Pub is The Hub said: “This project has been a huge team effort by the community – and with support from grants, fundraising, a unique location to site the shop and lots of goodwill. When essential services like shops and Post Offices are lost to a community it can have a devastating impact, so working with the local pub that can cater to a community’s needs is a great option. It is testament to the community’s determination and organisational skills that they have pulled it off in such an extraordinarily successful way!”
Neil Jenkins, Post Office Area Network Change Manager, who has been involved with the community-run shop and Post Office project from the outset, said: “We are delighted to have re-opened a permanent Post Office with significantly longer hours. This is a great example of a community-run shop and Post Office. It is working really well.”