East Boldre's threatened shop and post office is listed as an asset of community value by New Forest District Council
EAST BOLDRE'S village shop has been listed as an asset of community value despite protests from the owner who has been trying to sell the property for several years.
The status, granted by New Forest District Council, means any sale of the property must give locals a chance to prepare a bid, although it does not guarantee it must be accepted.
The application was submitted by East Boldre Community Stores Ltd (EBCS), which is made up of local residents and run by parish councillor Rebecca Gabzdyl.
It wants to lease the store from owner Ian Evans and already has planning permission to extend the retail space in order to expand the range of produce on offer.
In its decision to list the premises, which also has a post office facility, NFDC agreed that the store "furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community".
Mr Evans, who has been running the business for more than 20 years, recently launched a planning bid of his own to switch the building's use to solely residential in an attempt to maximise his profits through any potential sale of the site. This was refused, however, by the national park authority.
He fiercely opposed the application to list his property, arguing the business had made a loss over the last few years, particularly since the pandemic when locals have increasingly used supermarket home delivery services and "continue to do so".
"Listing the property will have severe and far-reaching consequences for myself in terms of unrestricted ability to dispose of my home as I see fit," he said.
He stated he had already agreed with East Boldre Community Stores (EBCS) to continue running the business to give it time to raise funds to take over.
But NFDC said there had been support for the shop locally, including from the parish council which said it was relied upon by vulnerable villagers.
A decision report by NFDC said: "Indeed, whilst revenue might inevitably have been adversely affected during the Covid period, there is also some evidence that its existence became essential for the community due to lack of, or distance to, alternative sources."
It also pointed to the fact that although Mr Evans had concerns over the viability of the store, he had "clearly been working with EBCS to try to facilitate the changeover".
The "detail and comprehensiveness" of the business plan made by EBCS as part of its application "goes some way in illustrating the efforts behind the group's proposal to operate a community-owned shop", it added.