Village campaign talks continue

The Spar in Longhoughton is set to close at the end of April.
The Spar in Longhoughton is set to close at the end of April.
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A parish council chairman has put in an expression of interest on an under-threat village building, as talks to safeguard key services continue.

The Spar, in Longhoughton, is expected to shut its doors at the end of April after the firm’s parent company, ISS, decided the store was no longer viable.

However, the building is also home to the village Post Office, as well as hairdressers, Haircrew.

The building is owned by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and is leased to ISS and the salon.

News of the Spar closure has prompted discussions about the future of the site, including the possibility of opening a community store.

RAF Boulmer has said that it would support any community campaign, especially to retain a Post Office.

And at Longhoughton Parish Council on Monday, chairman Bryan Ellis made his intentions clear. He said: “We really need to know whether the DIO intend to keep the building, knock it down or lease it to another party. They have already got one lease in there with the hairdressers.

“We, as a community, are interested at looking at the options on the building and I, on behalf of the community, will put an expression of interest in so that we can be kept informed about how the situation develops.

“Once we have more information, my intention is to call a parish meeting.”

The meeting heard that it is unclear whether any discussions have taken place with Royal Mail, but Coun Ellis added: “I understand that the hairdressers has not been given notice, which is hopefully a sign that the DIO would look at a potential tenant for the rest of the building.”

At Monday’s meeting, Charlotte Best, from RAF Boulmer, said: “The DIO are taking the lead on what is happening next, now that ISS made the commercial decision to close the Spar.

“Our intention is to support the parish council and the community in trying to make the best out of an unfortunate situation and we will try to empower the community to drive forward whatever plans you may have.

“The DIO haven’t made any decision about what to do with the building, but we will be urging them to make sure the village is consulted and make sure the village and the RAF Boulmer community can influence what happens the best we can. The RAF doesn’t do retail any more and a large company like ISS has said that the Spar is not viable, but the station supports keeping the Post Office and the hairdressers.”