After the Public Meeting held on 27th April to discuss the situation, a meeting of those interested in forming an Action Group(USAG) was organised and held on Wednesday, 6th May at 8pm in the Tommy Steele Pavilion. This was attended by over 30 villagers. Gwyn Halsall Little volunteered to Chair the meeting and Cyn Kimble to take minutes.
Gwyn welcomed everyone and gave an update on the current situation:
WCC informed the PC in a letter dated 24th April that it has accepted Lower Upham Stores onto the Assets of Community Value register. Both the shop and the house are registered. This is possible because the facilities for the shop are in the house.
Information for the owner of an asset – taken from WCC website
What happens if I decide to sell my property?
- Firstly you will need to notify Winchester City Council of your intention to sell.
- Unless an exemption applies, you will only be able to dispose of your property after a specified window has expired.
The first window is six weeks. During this time the community are given the opportunity to express their interest in preparing a bid for the land and/or buildings up for sale. If there is no interest, then you will be able to carry out the disposal of your property without any further delay.
In the event that the community express interest, the second window extends the first into a six month moratorium. This is put in place to give the community time to raise the capital for their bid. During this period you are allowed to market and negotiate sales, but you cannot exchange contracts (or enter into a binding contract to do so later). The only exception to this is that you may sell to a community interest group during the moratorium period.
- At the end of the six months you can consider the community bid in competition with any other offer. You are free to sell to whomever you choose and at whatever price.
Assuming Mr Dhatt would no longer be Postmaster of the Post Office if the shop were either rented or sold, we would require somebody to apply to run the Post Office. To do this the person would have to complete a Business Plan, be successfully interviewed, complete contracts, complete training, etc. This is a process that could take several months. They would also need to have a Valid Property Interest on the shop.
There may be a possibility that Post Office Ltd could find a Temporary Postmaster to run the branch for a short while. Finding a Temporary Postmaster isn’t always easy to do, especially if the Post Office isn’t particularly busy. However, I could check to see if that would be an option. If you could keep me informed of developments I will see what I can do from the Post Office end.
Mr. Dhatt had emailed the Parish Council saying that he was prepared to rent the shop for £650 per calendar month and the house for £875 per calendar month, or to sell for £485,000.
Gary Armstrong offered to be the single point of contact with Mr. Dhatt to ascertain present ownership and preference for renting or selling the property. He will report back to the next meeting
Possible Options were then put forward:
- There may be people in the village interested in buying and running the existing shop as a commercial business with community investment, keeping the Post Office as a Post Office Local. There will need to be investigation into the ways such a business could be set up. Volunteers offered to arrange visits to commercially run and volunteer run businesses in the locality and report back at the next meeting.
- Investigation of alternative premises may be necessary:
- A shop and Post Office next to the Woodman Inn. Roy Kimble offered to discuss the possibility with the owner and David Ashe will investigate Planning implications.
- Some development of the Village Hall to accommodate shop and Post Office provision without affecting current users. David Ashe will further investigate this possibility.
- The proposed development at Torbay Farm includes an attached commercial unit which could provide premises. It was agreed this would not be an ideal location but could be kept in mind.
Gwyn will investigate speedy relocation of the Post Office facilities when the shop closes with Rob Worley.
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 10th June at 8pm in the Tommy Steele Pavilion. Villagers interested in joining the group are welcome to attend this meeting.