Life breathed back into village

By Patrick LowmanA VILLAGE that was left without shopping facilities for almost three decades is celebrating the opening of a new shop and post office.

By Patrick Lowman

A VILLAGE that was left without shopping facilities for almost three decades is celebrating the opening of a new shop and post office.

The last village store in Hawkedon closed in the 1970s and the small community suffered another blow when its sub- post office closed in December.

That left just the Queen's Head pub and the village hall as the only community facilities in Hawkedon.

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But now pub landlord, Scott Chapman, has worked with Post Office bosses to convert one of his outbuildings into a new village store.

It is hoped the £22,000 project, funded by the Countryside Agency, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Royal Mail, will breathe new life into the community.

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The new shop, which opened yesterday, will provide vital postal services and will also double up as a general store selling groceries, food and other basic items.

Mr Chapman will run the post office with the help of a small team of villagers who have had special training for the job.

“When the post office closed, there wasn't anything left here except the pub. We had a spare building and thought it would be a good idea to use it,” he said.

“We are just looking to break even so we can stay up and running. Hopefully, the shop will be very beneficial for the villagers, who often have to trek into Bury St Edmunds just for their basic shopping.

“Everybody has been very supportive and we hope it helps breathe new life into the community.”

Parish council chairman, George Murray, whose wife Pauline ran the post office from their Upper Green home for about 20 years, hailed the opening of the new shop as “wonderful news”.

He added: “This is an exceptional project that is fantastic for the village. We haven't had a shop her for nearly 30 years, so the new facility is long overdue.

“Villages everywhere are struggling to keep their facilities open, so these type of projects are becoming vital - I hope the shop will help bring us back from the dead.

“The shop will be great for the whole community. For so long people have had to travel to the big towns for their shopping, now they have access to vital services close to their homes.”

John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said its support for the Hawkedon project reflected its commitment to safeguarding rural communities.

“I am delighted residents of Hawkedon will continue to have their own post office. The council is keen to support the retention of these key rural services, which are an indelible part of the community fabric,” he added.

A Post Office Limited spokesman said: “We are absolutely delighted that all our hard work has paid off and that our loyal customers in Hawkedon again have a post office of their own.

“I am sure local people will feel their patience has been rewarded when they come along to see for themselves.”

Meanwhile, Post Office Limited has moved to dismiss rumours it was planning to close its St Olaves Precinct branch in Bury St Edmunds.

It insisted there were no plans to close the branch, but admitted it will be looking at closing some of its other outlets over the next three years.

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