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Somerset villagers say they 'fear for Stoke St Gregory's future' as local services are at risk

This shop in a box is a temporary measure whilst money is raised for a big project. Credit: ITV News West Country

People in Stoke St Gregory have said they fear for the future of their community unless they do something about it.

Both pubs in the Somerset village are up for sale and the local shop closed at the end of 2019.

But residents are fighting back - buying shares in a project to take over one of the pubs and open a new shop.

Villagers are buying shares in the Heart of the Village projetc Credit: ITV News West Country

The Heart of the Village project will allow people to buy shares in what will become a community-run pub with a shop inside it.

I have lived here for twenty years. I use the shop - I do rely on it for a few things and it’s always good to know it’s there and it’s one of the reasons we bought a house in this village because it was the heart of the village.

It’s a useful thing to have in a village and there are a lot of people who rely on it.

– Jane White, shareholder Heart of the Village project

I moved here nearly a year ago and I thought super - because it’s got a nice little shop and a pub. I wanted to go into a village again and be involved in the village, because I was quite isolated before.

I was devastated to hear it [the shop] was going to close down just after I’d moved in. I think if you want to belong to the village you need to put something into the village and that’s why I decided to support this grand thing. People have worked so hard on it!

– Karen Rowe, shareholder Heart of the Village project
Villagers are fundraising in order to be able to carry out the project. Credit: ITV News West Country

Time is running out for the villagers, with £200,000 needed before the end of March to unlock extra grant money. But fundraising is going well, with over £155,000 raised so far.

This is not an uncommon problem. We’re working with an organisation called the Plunkett Foundation, who are supporting our efforts to manage the project, and they talk of experiences all across the west of England and beyond where villages face similar challenges.

The number of community pubs and community shops that they’re supporting is really quite significant and it is a trend that is increasing.

– Graham Gleed, chair Heart of the Village project

Volunteers are now in training for when the shop and pub open.

At the moment there are really only two routes in and out of Stoke St Gregory because of flooding on the Somerset Levels - another little reminder of just how isolated many villages in this county can be.

This is why people feel it’s so important to have local facilities like pubs and shops in their villages - not just for those challenging times, but to build communities. There are a number of villages across Somerset which have lost their shops and pubs permanently - Stoke St Gregory is determined not to join them.

– Ben McGrail, ITV News West Country’s Somerset Reporter
  • Watch Ben McGrail's full report here