Cotherstone community shop plan 'in the hands of Methodist church'
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
SUPPORTERS of a project to convert a former dale Methodist chapel into a shop, cafe and heritage centre have produced a business plan – but say turning it into reality remains some way off.
Residents launched the Cotherstone Old Chapel Project late last year in response to the closure of the village’s only shop.
Their business plan sets out a number of aims for the project which include:
Providing a shop that gives people access to essential products and services, especially to the vulnerable
Developing a community cafe to help reduce rural isolation
Creating a “local destination” through the cafe, shop and heritage centre to support the local economy
Encouraging visitors passing through to stop and spend some time in the village
The business plan states: “For this vision to be achieved, we strongly believe that the cafe/shop needs to be a community-run venture.
“By this we mean the venture is owned by residents of Cotherstone and its wider environs and these owners determine how the Chapel project develops.
“We believe that a venture run in this way will draw people in to become volunteers and consumers... as we meet our mission to provide a real benefit to the local community.”
Chris Tarpey, one of those involved in the chapel project, updated members of Cotherstone Parish Council at their February meeting.
He said how the project progresses was in the hands of Methodist church officials until they decided what they were going to do with the chapel.
“We presented them with the business plan and they were generally in favour. They have gone off to work out what they can do,” said Mr Tarpey.
“They may feel they have no option but to put it on the market and accept the highest bid or facilitate our plan.”
Parish council chairman Cllr John Birkett asked what the expected time frame was.
Mr Tarpey replied: “Their [Methodists] next meeting is not until June but they are setting up a working group to look into it. I don't think anything is going to happen immediately.”
In the meantime, Mr Tarpey asked councillors if they would support the project in principal. “The idea of the chapel project fits in with the neighbourhood plan to support amenities,” he said.
“If the council can express its support, that can only help going forward with the Methodists and any funding in future.”
Cllr Richard Hunter said: “I think we all agree in principal.”
Cllr Birkett added: “The village would do better with a shop and cafe and we are happy to acknowledge our support for the project.”