Urban community shops to receive £300,000 of business advice and grants

A pilot project will help urban communities across the UK set up local food shops to provide fresh food and everyday provisions. The £300,000 initiative is designed to enable...

A pilot project will help urban communities across the UK set up local food shops to provide fresh food and everyday provisions.

The £300,000 initiative is designed to enable urban communities to run their own local shops and address the challenge of accessing good food. It is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and co-ordinated by the Plunkett Foundation and Locality.

The pilot will see events organised across the UK, while specialist advice, fundraising guidance and grants will also be provided. The project is aimed at helping communities to run and own local shops.

Peter Couchman, chief executive of Plunkett Foundation, said that, although his organisation works predominantly with enterprises owned and led by rural communities, various groups in urban areas that were looking to create pubs, shops or food enterprise had contacted them for guidance, and the new project was a response to this. Our Urban Shop will build on the success of community-owned shops in rural areas, which have a 96% long-term survival rate, with 324 rural shops trading in the UK.

The pilot was an initiative put forward by Esmée Fairbairn after to the success of the Village Core programme that Plunkett and Esmée were involved in. On that initial project, Gina Crane, impact and learning officer at Esmée, said: “The shops provided employment for almost 100 people and volunteering opportunities for thousands more, and all of the shops have become viable community businesses. Equally importantly, the shops provided a place where people of all kinds could meet and spend time together, greatly enhancing community cohesion.

“We felt that the community-owned shop model might bring many of these benefits to disadvantaged urban areas, and so provided the funding to the Plunkett Foundation, which will work in collaboration with Locality, to explore this through the establishment of a small number of pilot projects.”

Locality is the UK’s leading network of communities ambitious for change. The network includes development trusts, community enterprises, settlements and social action centres. Chief executive Steve Wyler said: “Many of our members have experience of running successful community-owned shops and we’ve helped many more through the Community Rights support service.”

He thinks the pilot project is a “wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the potential of local enterprise in urban areas, sourcing and selling food which will have health as well as economic benefits with profits would be invested back into the community.”

• For more information in Our Urban Shop, visit www.communityshops.coop/urban or call 01993 810730.

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