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During late 2008 and 2009 a huge amount of staff and director time was spent researching the viability of purchasing the local shop in Hillswick as a community-run business. The current shop was about to close, and the community felt the best way of ensuring this very important facility survived, was to purchase the buildings as a community development.
Community consultation to gauge support highlighted that of the 54% who returned the postal survey, 82% of those were in favour of a community buy out. Funding avenues were looked at and a business plan was developed to move the project forward. Funding to help with the purchase cost of the buildings at Hillswick was very hard to find.
HIE's Community Land Unit (CLU) was identified as a possible source of funding to assist the community to purchase the buildings at Hillswick. A business case was prepared for the shop and an options appraisal/feasibility study to consider whether the project was viable. The development at Hillswick also included a house and two outbuildings and options for use also had to be considered for these.
During 2009 it became a real possibility that the community would be able to purchase the buildings and re-open the shop. HIE's CLU were interested in helping with the purchase costs if the figures stacked up, and the shop was a sustainable business opportunity. Staff at the NCDC worked hard to put together information for the CLU and the banks, but there were lots of days during our journey towards the purchase of the shop that it seemed like the deal would fall through or that we would loose out.
Staff at the CLU were fantastic and when the NCDC was given a deadline that it had to keep, or loose the shop, the CLU helped us achieve that deadline and agreed to fund £50,000 of the total purchase price of £75,000. Royal Bank of Scotland was also very helpful and the NCDC secured a loan to cover the remainder of the purchase cost with some extra funds for refurbishment.
On 17th July 2009, the community finalised the purchase of the shop and associated buildings and we took ownership. By this time the shop had closed down and required internal refurbishment before the doors could reopen. The NCDC could never have imagined the huge part the local community would play in ensuring that all the refurbishment work was completed in record time.
A steering group was formed from a community consultation evening at Hillswick and a structure for the business was also chosen by the community. The majority decided that the business should be a trading arm of the NCDC. This would give the business independence as it would have a separate board of directors, but the board would benefit from the support of the NCDC. Any surplus profits generated by the shop would be passed back to the NCDC and used to benefit the community of Northmavine.
Following the successful community buy-out of the Hillswick Shop on 17th July, the community is raring to see the shop doors open again and a large number of folk in the area have signed up to help with the running and refurbishment of the shop premises. Redd up nights have been organised to help update the premises.
A steering group has been established to help get the shop up and running and members of this group will form the eventual community company directors which will chosen by folk in the area. The company will be established as a trading arm of the Northmavine Community Development Company (NCDC) and as such will benefit from support and advice from the NCDC.
The steering group has now drawn up an initial plan of action and this will begin with a number of ?redd up? nights. Around 30 people from Hillswick, Eshaness and the surrounding area have joined a ?redd up and refurbishment? group which will help clear out the premises and give the place a make-over. The steering group hope that new flooring, lighting, shelving and some alteration to the existing layout will help brighten up the shop and serve as basis for the new community-led business.
Folk in the area see the venture as a new beginning for the shop at Hillswick and the steering group has initially organised three redd up nights next week. The shop premises will be open at 7pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night when anyone in the Hillswick, Eshaness, Heylor, Urafirth and surrounding areas will be welcome to go along to remove surplus items of stock, fixtures and fittings on a first-come-first-served basis. A donation bucket will be available for anyone who wishes donate towards the costs of refurbishing the shop. Anyone who would like further information should contact the NCDC office on 01806 544222 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Community voting ended on Monday to decide the final composition of the board of directors that will oversee the management of the community-run shop at Hillswick.
Voting was very close in the ballot to choose community representatives to join John Alex Cromarty and Pete Bevington of the Northmavine Community Development Company (NCDC). The final seven community members are: Iain Davidson, Ewan Mowat, Graham Mullay, Aileen Robertson, Peter Sinclair, Cynthia Tulloch and Ewan Tulloch, who represent a wide-spread cross section of the community.
It?s often a difficult task to decide how a ?community? is defined or decided upon and which areas and parties will have a direct interest and subsequently should be included in any communication or consultation. Geographical or postal boundaries often exclude important parties or users so, at an early stage, the NCDC defined the community by looking at those in Hillswick and the surrounding area who had used the shop as their ?local? in the past.
The steering group, from which the board was elected, will continue to oversee the refurbishment and re-opening of the shop until the board of directors take over when the shop opens in late November.
The Hillswick shop is to re-open next week after being bought and completely refurbished by the local community.
Local volunteers have spent hundreds of hours and donated hundreds of pounds to bring back the shop, which closed last February when its former owners went out of business.
The century-old establishment was purchased in July by the Northmavine Community Develop¬ment Company (NCDC), with the help of a £50,000 grant from the Community Land Unit of Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The premises were completely gutted and an intense programme of work was co-ordinated to renovate the building from top to bottom, outside and in.
A shop committee was formed and has now employed Eileen Mullay as shop manager and Vivienne Garriock and Shane Laurenson as part-time assistants.
The shop will open for business at 2pm on Thursday, with an opening ceremony at 6.30pm with refreshments.
Shop committee vice-chairman Peter Sinclair said: "Everyone has done a tremendous job helping to give back Hillswick a shop which it can be proud of. It has been a lot of work, but we?re getting to the final stages now and it?s great to see the place taking shape."
The refurbishment was a greater task than had been originally foreseen, Mr Sinclair said, but 90 per cent of the work has been carried out by local volunteers.
"The only way we have managed this is because of the amount of community support there has been and I would like to thank all the people who have helped out in any way."
"We just hope that folk show as much enthusiasm for supporting the shop once it is open as they have for the refurbishment."
Shetland Islands Council?s economic development unit has awarded £10,000 from its rural shop scheme to help with the renovation and provided £5,000 working capital to provide stock.
With many folk travelling outwith the area to work, the shop will be open until 7pm at night, except on Sundays when it will close at 5pm. It will also open at 7.30am on Fridays.