The project to build and operate a new shop and café is the largest community-led initiative of potential benefit to Bledington and nearby villages.
It is an investment in the future vitality of this community comparable to the decision of Edward Bailey, Lionel Hitchcock, and John Davison in 1920 to provide a building for use as a Village Hall.
There have been several significant steps since the Parish Council’s 2016 AGM:
- We recognised that over three years’ time and effort devoted to external fundraising did not yield the hoped-for major grants to enable us to proceed with building
- We accepted that the original design, presented to the village in 2012, though attractive, is therefore not affordable
- We decided to explore simpler and less costly building designs.
- With the generous professional involvement of Chris Kubale, and continuing advice and support of Mike Logue, our building group, led by Andrew Packe, has identified a promising alternative, costing about half the earlier design
- We revisited our costs. Further analysis showed that the combination of greenfield site and planning requirements imposes a high level of unavoidable enabling costs, whatever structure is erected. Efforts continue to reduce this burden to the minimum possible
- Despite some understandable impatience to see the shop/café open, the community has continued to engage actively with the project:
- 50+ volunteers fundraising, maintaining the site, serving on the Management Committee, and providing technical advice
- over £15000 added through local fundraising, notably the Chastleton teas
- 20 new BCSL Members bringing the total to some 250
- We developed fruitful relationships with the Plunkett Foundation and GRCC, who have encouraged and given practical help to our efforts
Looking ahead, our aim is to launch the shop before the end of 2017 or at least to have it visibly under construction. To this end:
- on Saturday 17 June we will present the alternative design and revised project costs at an Open Meeting in the Village Hall
- we will seek planning permission for the external building changes proposed
- we are pursuing a more broadly based financing strategy, combining continued local fundraising and selectively targeted approaches to other sources, including a second share offer and online fundraising
To conclude this summary report, it is worth reminding ourselves that bringing the social and practical benefits of a shop and café to Bledington depends most of all on the willingness of villagers to join in and help finish the job.
Michael and Robin McCulloch Co-Chairs of BCSL 11 May 2017