Villagers fight to save only shop

A ROW has erupted in a Suffolk village over the future of its only store.Residents in Laxfield are fighting a planning application that would see their “thriving” Co-op closed and replaced with three smaller retail units and a caf�.

Simon Tomlinson

A ROW has erupted in a Suffolk village over the future of its only store.

Residents in Laxfield are fighting a planning application that would see their “thriving” Co-op closed and replaced with three smaller retail units and a caf�.

The protesters, who held a meeting in the village on Saturday, claim the idea wouldn't work and could threaten the future of the linked post office.


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The move, which could see the Co-op evicted when its lease runs out in October, has also shocked bosses at the independent retailer, which had planned to refurbish the store and increase its range of products.

But the freeholders, Fiona and Bill Shuttle, who live in the village, believe they have hatched a blueprint that will enable local businesses and producers to prosper.

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They say their commercial philosophy is in line with last year's parish council-commissioned survey which revealed that most respondents wanted more small businesses and jobs in the village.

Mrs Shuttle said: “There is a strong undercurrent of support for us. It will have a direct effect on the local economy.

“We want to make it more of a community hub with a Neighbourhood Work Centre above the shops where businesses can network.”

Mr Shuttle added: “We are not in business to fail. We will do everything in our power to make it a success. Our firm intention is for the Post Office to stay.”

However, Chris Ward, chairman of action group Save Laxfield's Only Shop, said: “To subdivide the building into three units doesn't make sense. There will many more deliveries straight to shelf which will increase traffic movements.

“What the village really wants is the Co-op to stay. It is an ethical trader and has a good range of products.

“If we were to lose the shop and the post office it would be a huge blow. The nearest quality shop is around ten miles away.”

The Co-op's lease is up in October and will not be renewed if the planning application is granted.

Richard Waddington, regional manager for the Co-op, was at a meeting on Saturday in the village hall to show off the refurbishment plans.

He said: “The shop still trades as Balfour, which we own, but it is not representative of our brand. We would like to invest in the store, but we need the security of a lease.”

Protesters will tomorrow hand a 500-signature petition to the planning officer at Mid Suffolk District Council, which is expected to make a decision in June.

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