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Bad weather pushes back launch date for East Boldre’s new community store and post office on Chapel Lane

THE planned opening date of East Boldre’s new community stores has been pushed back to February after bad weather hampered building progress.

The village’s new community store and post office was set to open mid-January after a £700,000 project to convert a former church.

However, the date will now be 16th February, with plans in place for the existing community shop to continue trading in the interim.

59682734East Boldre Baptist Church (picture: Google)
59682734East Boldre Baptist Church (picture: Google)

Led by a team of village residents, the five-year project culminated in the purchase of the former church building on Chapel Lane, which is currently being transformed into a community shop, post office and bicycle repair facility. However, bad weather in November and December hampered outside renovation work and decorating, with work also needed to complete the parking area.

East Boldre Community Stores spokesperson Rebecca Gabzdyl said: “It is a 200-year-old building so inevitably it threw up a few challenges we were not anticipating, and with the Christmas break and bad weather we had to put back the opening date by a few weeks.

“We are very grateful to Ian Evans who runs the current community shop and has agreed to continue operating until we the new shop is ready so there is no loss of this community provision.

“Ian has been wonderful and, following the new shop launch, he will be working with us for six months to help train the volunteers and ensure a smooth transition.”

As previously reported in the A&T, the East Boldre Community Stores committee faced a series of setbacks after a scheme to extend the village hall to accommodate a shop fell through due to complications with developing on grazing land.

Rebecca said: “It proved a challenging task to find suitable premises for our community shop and post office [but] it is exciting that we will soon be trading.

“When the chapel came onto the market in August 2022 it gave us a great solution for premises for our community owned and run business and, by running our business within it, ensured the chapel would be kept in community use.”

The committee subsequently raised £225,000 through a community share offer and received a £299,500 Community Ownership Fund award from the government’s Levelling Up scheme, enabling the purchase of the building in May 2023.

As well as creating the shop, the volunteer team has overseen a project to commemorate and preserve the chapel’s history, including recording the inscriptions on each of the 52 onsite gravestones and creating a permanent exhibition in the chapel’s former vestry.

Rebecca said: “It is wonderful that as we near completion of the project we have had new volunteers coming forward to work in the shop. It is our hope that it will become a real hub for the community.

“We have spent so many years planning for and building the shop, it is exciting that the focus has now changed to running it. We have a great team in place and are very excited for the launch.”

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