Community Shops

I was delighted when I discovered that a boundary review would bring the village of Kirdford into my Arundel and South Downs constituency.

So as the ‘new' MP it was wonderful to meet so many local people on Saturday at the opening of the new village shop.

The event was sprinkled with a touch of Hollywood stardust as guest of honour Julie Walters cut the ribbon before dashing off to the Baftas to collect a leading actress award for her portrayal of the late Labour MP Mo Mowlam.

And having spent much of the last five years on protest marches to protect local services, including our post offices and A&E departments, it was great to celebrate the reinstatement of something lost.

Fans of The Archers on Radio 4 will have heard a lot about community shops recently, but I'm delighted that Kirdford has beaten Ambridge to it!

Village shops are so important to the fabric of our rural way of life.  And community shops are even more precious, giving people an important sense of ownership, involvement and pride.

But the opening of this new shop didn't come easily.  It was the result of a lot of hard work and dedication from volunteers like Sue Ransley and members of the Kirdford Community Shop Steering Committee who raised more than £200,000 for the cause. 

And it relied on the support of the Plunkett Foundation which helps rural villages across the country to open community-owned shops.

It would have been very easy to give up when the old village shop closed in 2006.  So I congratulate everyone who has been involved in the project and helped to make the dream a reality.

It's not the first of its kind.  Amberley's community shop has been operating very successfully for several years now and the residents of Slindon are working hard to open a new community hub at the Old Forge - a planning application for this new shop and cafe is imminent.

Across West Sussex we see volunteers coming together and building services for the whole community - making the idea of "the big society" a reality.

Christopher N Howarth