Customers and staff at a North Yorkshire village community shop are being kept Covid-safe with the help of a four-figure grant from the benefits fund linked to a nearby wind farm.
The Church Fenton Community Shop is a volunteer-run store that opens seven days a week and provides essential supplies for people living in the surrounding villages, as well as fulfilling a range of other functions which contribute to the wider well-being of local residents.
It has stayed open during the pandemic by instigating a number of safety measures to minimise the risk of transmission, while it has also provided a new prescription collection point on behalf of the local GP practice.
A £1,000 grant from the community benefits fund linked to Banks Renewables’ Hook Moor wind farm has now been used by the shop to purchase a new EPOS stock management system, as well as a laptop through which to run it, which means that staff can stay away from customers on the shop floor while doing their work and so allow them to make their purchases safely.
Church Fenton Community Shop came into being three years ago when a group of local residents took over the premises from the retiring couple that had owned it for 40 years, refurbished it and established a rota of volunteers to run it, so that it could be retained as a community asset.
The shop, which now sells its own label gin, wine and preservatives alongside a growing range of household items, also provides a hub for community and social activity, and is currently developing plans for a dementia café to help further its impact in tackling social isolation across the area.
Andrew Mason, one of the organisers at the Church Fenton Community Shop, says: “While retaining a local retail outlet was the initial idea behind taking over the shop, it’s much more than just a place for villagers to buy a few things and has become a real catalyst for well-being.
“The personal benefits that it brings for our residents, whether they are teenage volunteers gaining experience that will help them with their future careers or older people who might visit us for a chat two or three times a day, are just as important as the products that we offer, if not more so.
“We’ve worked hard to keep things running as normally as possible this year while also making sure it’s safe for people to shop with us, and with the new stock management system meaning we don’t have to be out on the shop floor while we’re organising our products, we can leave the space in the shop that our customers need.
“We’re hugely grateful to Banks for supporting our grant application, which means we can direct even more of the profits that we earn back into making the shop the best it can possibly be.”
The Hook Moor wind farm fund usually prioritises capital expenditure projects for groups and good causes in the immediate local area, but in response to the impact of the pandemic, Banks Renewables and the local grants panel temporarily relaxed the eligibility criteria and extended the area within which grants can be made.
Grants worth a total of £6,500 have so far been paid over to four local Covid-response projects which were identified with the assistance of local councillors and other community leaders, with other beneficiaries including the Neighbourhood Elders Team (NET) in Garforth and the Micklefield Tenants & Residents Association, which works to improve the conditions for residents of the village.
The Hook Moor wind farm will generate more than £250,000 of local community funding over its 25-year lifespan and has been operational since the beginning of 2016.
Banks Renewables is currently progressing plans in the area for the new Barnsdale solar energy park, which would be located between Kippax and Allerton Bywater and which would come with a community benefits fund of over £800,000 over the life of the project.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Hook Moor fund is designed to bring direct, long-term benefits to local communities, and supporting the work of the hugely impressive Church Fenton shop team matches our objectives perfectly.
“Delivering tangible benefits to the communities around all our renewable energy schemes is an essential part to their operation and we hope we’re able to increase the contribution we can make we can make to communities in Yorkshire through the new Barnsdale solar energy project.”