Plans to ensure Rogate Stores stays open

ROGATE Stores owner Ann Arnold has come up with a plan to keep the vital community facility open for villagers.

Ann is proposing to make the facilities smaller in a bid to make them pay.

She wants to change the use of the ground floor shop space and post office to a mixed 
use consisting of a ground floor flat and smaller shop space.

Ann bought the stores and post office in 2004 and completely refurbished the facilities at a cost of around £100,000, including a £25,000 grant from Chichester District Council.

She said the shop side of the business had been successful in so much as she had been able to pay the bills but: “The profit margin is very low even though alternative uses in parts of the shop have been tried.”

Neither the hairdressers nor a jewellery workshop at the back of the shop had succeeded.

“The shop is large for a village stores and due to Petersfield and Midhurst being so close in which there are Tesco, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Lidl, Morrisons and Budgens, together with the Farm Shop at Durleigh now selling the same products as Rogate Stores, it is not possible to complete competitively,” she said.

In addition, the post office now requires village facilities to be changed to ’local post offices’ involving alterations not paid for by Royal Mail.

Ann wants permission to alter the floor-space creating a smaller convenience shop with reduced running costs and creating the required ‘local’ post office.

“This would enable the shop to be kept open, thus continuing the service for the good of the community as identified in the neighbourhood plan,” she said.

Ann said the shop could operate satisfactorily in a smaller floor area.

And the post office, now vital to the community, could be altered as Royal Mail required.

The latter was, said Ann, the one success story of the operation increasing its turnover by 1,000 per cent in the last decade.

The reduced size of the shop and post office would then make space for a one-bedroom flat, perhaps for an elderly person.

“The income from the flat would also help in financing the shop and post office,” said Ann.

She reassured residents there was no intention of selling the stores just, ‘making it sustainable and also providing a further unit for domestic occupation in the village’.