People power to the rescue

The Lesbury  community work to get the shop up and running again.
The Lesbury community work to get the shop up and running again.
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A VILLAGE post office looks set to reopen at the end of the month, after residents stamped their mark on its future and saved it from permanent closure.

People in Lesbury rallied to rescue the business, which includes a shop, after it shut at the end of last year when the occupant decided to step down.

The Lesbury  community work to get the shop up and running again.

The Lesbury community work to get the shop up and running again.

With the help of their local county councillor, Roger Styring, they set up a working group which managed to negotiate a lease with the owner of the building, Northumberland Estates, and set about renovating it.

And as the shop was being prepared for reopening, they even managed to re-establish the paper round, organising deliveries from the local church.

Villager Carol Southam is now training with the Royal Mail to become the sub-postmistress, but says it couldn’t have happened without a massive effort by volunteers within the community.

“We knew the village needed all the small elements for this to be economically viable,” she said.

“We started by doing the newspapers from the church, which was provided with no charge to us, to build up the business again and from there things snowballed.

“Between myself and my business partner Julie Dobson, we agreed we could do the work together to reopen the post office, but we have had tremendous support from the whole community which has provided in excess of 2,000 hours of volunteer time and raised several thousand pounds.

“People have donated paint, furniture and financial contributions, while Northumberland Estates has been tremendous – it has been a massive community effort.

“What is different about the way this will be run is that for every hour of voluntary help, the business will reinvest something back into the village through a community fund.”

Carol added: “What people really buy is the whole experience – the conversation, the social interaction – that makes this so worthwhile.”

Coun Styring said: “I’m delighted with the way this has worked out.

“It is vital to retain services in our villages and the community has made a huge effort to make this succeed.”