Notes of the Co-op Public Meeting - Dec 1st 7:30pm, Stradbroke Community Centre

Introduction by Roger Turkington
18months ago when it was clear that the SPAR was going to close a small group of concerned residents set up a "shop group" to investigate what could be done to ensure Stradbroke would be able to retain a village store. Two avenues were explored; to work with SPAR management to encourage the reopening of the SPAR, to see if the Co-op had any interest in establishing a new shop in Stradbroke. We now have the possibility of having two stores in the village and the Co-op are here to answer as best they can, any questions local residents may have regarding their plans. The Parish Council have also invited the Co-op to come along to their next meeting to discuss their plans and follow-up on the issues raised at this meeting.

Summary of Presentation from Co-op
The aim is to build a small sized convenient store on the old garage site. Formal plans will be submitted for consideration early in the new year. If after the 13 week period for evaluation they are accepted then a new Co-op could be opened before next Christmas. The shop would create an estimated 35 new jobs, most of which would be part time with 3 to 5 permanent staff.
Questions from the floor were then invited. After a general Q&A there would be an opportunity to look at the plans and discuss with members of the Co-op any details on a one-to-one basis.

Questions and Answers

  1. A large number of questions and comments were put to Co-op regarding Traffic congestion and safety in the Queen Street Area summarised below

- Should the Co-op look at traffic flow before going ahead?
- Dangerous to cross the road with increased traffic flow.
- Serious congestion already outside the primary school, you are only going to make it worse
- How are you going to control customer parking?
- How are you going to control delivery lorries?
- Access to the centre of the village for emergency services will be jeopardised
- Where are you going to put a 40ft articulated delivery lorry?

The impact of the Co-op on traffic flow and safety in the village will be dealt with by Highways Dept. They have a set of Rules and Regulations which the Co-op will comply with in full. If a traffic flow survey is required then this will come out of the planning process. The Co-op are well aware of the fear that traffic congestion is a serious concern for the residents of Stradbroke and will do whatever they can to allay the residents' fears.
Co-op has met with representatives from the primary school (teachers and governors) and will work with the community to address their concerns over safety.
Customer parking - from experience in other stores, shopping is done in a relatively short period and turn round times for cars is therefore rapid. 10/11 car parking spaces for a shop this size is considered adequate, especially with many customers living within the village.
Deliveries will be strictly controlled and a guarantee was given that the Co-op large delivery will not take place during the periods when children arrive or leave school.

2. A variety of questions and comments regarding the impact of a second store on other shops within the village

- Does the village actually need another shop, and can we afford it?
- The Butchers and Bakers have served us well, what will happen to them if the Co-op comes?
- If we get a Co-op will you look to stock what the other shops do not (eg a Pharmacy)
- In the past the Village had many shops and it was not a problem then.

From experience in other villages (e.g. Debenham and Lavenham) the presence of a Co-op increases trade within the community and does not reduce the business of existing shops. Debenham for example has a variety of shops and the introduction of a Co-op will help create a critical mass for the village to grow and prosper. Experience has also shown that it is the big supermarket giants that suffer most when a new local Co-op opens with local residents preferring to shop nearer to home, thus all local shops benefit.

The Co-op want to be "good neighbours" and are determined to work with other shops and local suppliers to meet customer needs.

3. How many years are left before the Lease on the SPAR shop runs out? Could we be left with no convenience store if the Co-op did not go ahead?

There are 15yrs left on the lease and it is unlikely that planning would allow for a chance of use. (Answered by the current owners of the SPAR premises)

4. What would the expected opening hours be?

For planning purposes the application would be for 7am till 10pm, 7 days per week. However, the actual opening times have not been decided and will depend on when it is most useful. Management are well aware of how important it is for the Co-op to maintain good neighbours and would not want to encourage any form of antisocial behaviour as a consequence of late opening.

5. Has the site actually been purchased?

The contract of purchase is subject to planning being given. If plans are not approved then the purchase will not go ahead.

6. Could we have a vote by members of the audience to see how many are in favour of a Co-op coming to the village?

It is likely that the majority of the residents present in the meeting were here because they had a strong objection to the proposed opening of a new store. It was an unrepresentative cross section of the village. Any vote would be meaningless and therefore should not be held. (This was a response from a member of the audience, not the Co-op).

Everyone was invited to stay and enjoy refreshments provided by the Co-op and served by the WI and to review the plans on display and discuss further.
The meeting closed with a vote of thanks for the Co-op coming to the village and sharing their proposals.

Copies of the current plans presented at the meeting can be found here; Location Plan, Site Plan, Elevations

November 2014 News Update

As reported back in July rumours about the possible development of a new Coop Store broke and the expected re-opening of Spar that month was delayed for 4 months until the 5th November. Obviously the lack of a convenience store for over a year has been a dissappointment and inconvenience for all and the centre of the village has been terribly quite. However, we do now have a really bright, well stocked and welcoming Spar - worth the wait.

We understand the reason for the long delay was because AF Blackemore were unable to find new tenants that were willing to commit to their terms. Having invested a significant amount in refurbishing the store AF Blakemore made the decsion to run the store direct. Whether any other prospective tenants come foward we don't know but at least the store is now open and running well.

Thanks must go to the bakers and butchers for helping the village by stocking additional products such as newspapers and stamps. 

Now it looks as though we may well have the benefit of two grocery stores. The East of England Coop have had a long standing interest in developing new facilities in large villages and market towns such as Stradbroke but a suitable site could not be found until recently. The Coop have been in protracted disucssions about acquirng the old garage site in Queen Street for a considerable time but agreement has now been reached.

The Coop will present their proposals at the public meeting on the 1st December and we know they are eager to hear residents views and work with our community to try and resolve any concerns and ultimately give us products and services that meet our varied needs. 

July 2014 The Spa Story So Far

By 2012 it was obvious to everyone that the Spar Shop was in terminal decline. The tenants finally declared bankruptcy in Sept 2013. Prior to that at a Parish Council meeting on April 8th 2013, Don Darling suggested the council look into ways of securing a long term viable shop within the village. The council's response was clear - it could not interfere in privately run businesses, but was "supportive of any community initiative that might have a positive impact on the development of retail in the village".

After the meeting was closed, two councillors, Oliver last and Simon Bellamy, approached Don Darling offering to help in any initiative regarding the development of retail facilities in the village.

Don Darling then approached two additional residents of the village, Roger Turkington and Susan Ecclestone, to join an informal group, independent of the Parish Council, to explore options for ensuring a sustainable village shop.

The group of 5 residents identified 3 routes for study.

1. Working with Spar/Blakemore management to get the current shop back into a viable retail operation

2. Exploring alternative retail businesses to come into the village, of which the Co-op was the main contender.

3. Evaluating the possibility of setting up a community run shop within the village.

These 3 initiatives were followed in parallel with the following results:

Communications with Spar/AF Blakemore were established, they demonstrated a willingness to discuss and share information in confidence about getting a viable Spar business up and running again.

The Co-op were contacted to see if they had any interest in setting up a facility within Stradbroke; they said in confidence that they were open to the idea.

As far as a community run shop was concerned, it soon became apparent that this was an unlikely option given the amount of local effort and time required to set it up and run it, and the failure rate of other similar enterprises

In September 2013 once the decision to follow two routes had been taken, Sue Ecclestone and Simon Bellomy left the group. Sue because she was studying in London and Simon because he felt he did not have the time to make the ongoing commitment.

Both the Spar and Co-op options were followed in parallel over then next few months. All discussions were in the strictest confidence.

It became clear to the group in December 2013 that Stradbroke could end up with both a Spar and Co-op in the village. We felt at this point that we should inform AF Blakemore about the possible competitor that was seriously considering setting up a shop on a new site in Stradbroke. Since Spar already had tenants lined up to manage the Spar we wanted them to be aware of the potential competition before they signed any contracts. At the time the names of the prospective tenants were not disclosed to us.

Spar presented their plans to the village on December 17th and announced that they had prospective tenants for the new Spar shop, who lived locally. AF Blakemore were planning on a late spring 2014 opening.

At the Parish Council meeting on June 9th Damian Royal announced that he and his partner, Rachel Lambley, were the new prospective tenants for the Spar Shop and that it would open soon. There were further delays because AF Blakemore had let the premises license lapse without informing Damian and Rachel. This would take at least 28 days to complete.

On July 14th the Co-op informed Roger Turkington of their desire to open a shop in the village and said that they would like to come and give a presentation at a Parish Council /Village meeting. Roger Turkington informed the Parish Council on July 14th. This was the first time any information was made public regarding this option.

We spoke with Damien Royal about the Co-op initiative and he was "gobsmacked". Much to our surprise AF Blakemore had never mentioned to Damian the possibility of this happening. 

Shortly afterwards, Damian and Rachel declared that they could not proceed with opening the shop without a change in the terms and conditions laid down by Blakemore.

Subsequent discussions with AF Blakemore showed that they had no intention of changing their terms and stated they have other prospective tenants available and that it is in their interest to open the Spar shop in Stradbroke as quickly as possible irrespective of the decision by Damian and Rachel.