PLANS have been revealed to secure the future of a popular New Forest community shop by relocating to a new extension at the local village hall.
The Pilley Community Shop and post office, which is run by manager Caroline Darke and a team of volunteers, is set to move when the current lease on its premises runs out in two years.
It has operated on the same site for more than a century and for the last five years has been run by community stakeholders.
Bernard Atkinson, chair of the shop management committee, said the store had gone from strength to strength since becoming a community-run asset and had remained open throughout the lockdown to maintain vital services for the village.
He said: “I would like to scotch the rumour the shop will be closing in two years’ time. It is true we will relocate from our current premises but we have been hard at work behind the scenes on a plan to co-locate the shop at Boldre Memorial Hall by building a new extension.
“The idea actually came from the Boldre Memorial Hall trustees who approached us around two years ago to discuss co-locating these two community assets.”
Under the proposals, the new building would be paid for from memorial hall funds and then leased to the community shop management committee.
The aim is to complete the building project to enable the relocation without having to close.
Mr Atkinson said: “Of course, the shop has been on its present site for a long time and some will see the move as a backward step, but staying put is not an option open to the committee.
“The premises will be moving around half a mile, so we are very aware that this could cause problems for some customers who currently walk to use the shop.
“Our aim is to do all we can to retain these customers and add some new ones when we relocate.”
Stocked with newspapers, bakery products, fresh eggs, local produce, alcoholic and soft drinks and dry food goods, the store has significantly boosted trade since becoming a community venture.
It now has three times the turnover than before the volunteer management committee stepping in five years ago.
Mr Atkinson concluded: “We are open seven days a week and we operate the post office services from Monday to Friday. During the Covid lockdown we actually boosted our trade in what could have been a difficult time for us.
“We are very optimistic about the future. After more than 100 years of serving the community we would not stand by and let our much-loved shop close without a plan for the future.”