Villagers fight to save last shop

AN action group has been formed by angry villagers who oppose plans to shut their last remaining shop.

Elliot Furniss

AN action group has been formed by angry villagers who oppose plans to shut their last remaining shop.

The Co-op and Post Office store in Laxfield High Street is set to close after the owners of the property submitted a planning application to turn it into a three-shop complex with a caf� to offer greater choice to residents.

Chris Ward is leading the group, named SLOSH (Save Laxfield's Only Shop), and said the Co-op was a vital lifeline for many people, particularly the elderly and those who could not drive.

He said: “It's a real heart of the community. My 93-year-old father-in-law moved to Laxfield 10 years ago and he knows people because he's met them in the village shop.

“It's a real social amenity, a chance for people to catch up with each other and find out what's going on.

Most Read

“There's a huge head of steam building up in the village over this, the shop has served us very well over many years.”

Mr Ward, a Laxfield resident for 16 years, said the group could not understand why the landowners were preventing the Co-op from renewing its licence.

He added: “We understand they have a right to renew it. The Co-op wants to make a �200,000 investment in upgrading the facilities in the shop.

“Economically, it is going to be a disaster and the last thing we want is to see empty shops in the village.”

Laxfield resident and former EADT columnist Michael Cole said the shop was a “thriving” business and experienced retailers were of the opinion that replacing it with three smaller stores was “economically unviable”.

He said: “This is not the story of a dying village shop. Every week, it serves between 2,400 and 2,500 customers. It is the heart of the community and its services are highly valued by many people over a large area.”

But landlords Bill and Fiona Shuttle, who live in the village, have said the Post Office would be taken over by the new tenants and the planned changes would offer better retail opportunities.

Mrs Shuttle said: “It's causing a divide in the village, which we don't like and isn't healthy. We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think it was the right thing to do.”

Mrs Shuttle said an interim post office and shop would be maintained while the site was converted and once open, the new facilities would support local food producers and employ even more staff than the Co-op.

nSLOSH will be holding its first public meeting at 7.30pm on Monday in the village hall to discuss the next stage of its campaign.