We all know that village shops are important but sometimes I expect the owners might like to be told how valued they are and the vital services they provide in a rural community recognised.
I was very pleased when Napton Village Stores were declared the Midlands winner of the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards in the Village Shop/Post Office category.
Nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’, the Countryside Alliance Awards celebrate the best of the UK’s produce, enterprise, heritage and communities. Adam and Hannah Slade, the owners of Napton Village Stores were one of over 7500 nominations across five categories. This week they travelled to the Houses of Parliament to be presented with their award. This achievement is particularly satisfying for them as the shop was once set to close and the couple negotiated long and hard to show their business plan could work.
I know from my travels around the constituency that the village shop sells more than groceries and newspapers, they provide a whole range of services and can be the lifeline for a community. The village shop is often the centre of village life, the place where local news is exchanged and where people see each other.
Increasingly they also house the Post Office and small businesses depend on them for banking services also.
Significantly the village shop can play a very important role in combating social exclusion. For some residents, especially the elderly and the unemployed, a visit to the shop is their only social contact of the day and the shop is an informal part of their support network. Similarly, the village shop can be the difference between being able to live independently rather than having to move into sheltered housing elsewhere when an individual does not drive.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, the village shop provides so many other services through their support of local suppliers, creating jobs and supporting the local economy. I am delighted the Napton store has been recognised and that Adam and Hannah have been rewarded for the services they provide and for their hard work in the community.