A VILLAGE is to reopen its post office after bidding successfully for a £275,000 church under new legal powers.

Residents in Horspath rallied to buy Horspath Methodist Chapel from the Oxford Methodist Circuit through a “community asset” law.

Now it is a community centre and is also to have a post office open on Fridays for the first time since 2011.

Friends of Horspath trustee Sally Humphrey, of Cuddeston Road, said: “It has been an amazing experience.

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“The village has been devastated by not having a post office because there are a lot of older people who find it difficult to get to Cowley or Wood Farm [in Oxford].

“It is also important for the small businesses here and the school, which needs to deposit money, but it is also as much about having a place for people to gather.”

 The original opening of the building in 1909

The post office in the village closed three years ago after the owner of the shop in which it was based admitted fraud In January 2013 the Oxford Methodist Circuit decided to move out of the chapel in the village and put it on the market.

The building has an entrance hall, main hall, small meeting room, kitchen, toilets and a garden.

The Friends of Horspath managed to secure a £25,000 grant from the Weston Foundation, £100,000 from South Oxfordshire District Council and, according to Friends of Horspath, about £150,000 from residents through loans and donations, which ranged from £5 to £1,000. It amounted to £275,000 and in August 2013 they made their bid.

They were up against developers, who proposed turning the building into a four-bedroom home.

But within weeks the group was told their bid was successful and they have since reopened the building, introducing acitivities such as yoga, tai-chi, a painting group and a coffee morning.

In the next few weeks the post office is also due to reopen.

Mrs Humphrey added: “We were overwhelmed when we found out our bid was successful. It’s really added a new social cohesion to the town.”

Fellow Friends of Horspath director Rebecca Brown, of Gidley Way, said: “We are also still applying for grants to fund works which will need doing at some point, such as double glazing and added kitchen equipment.

“But we are really happy with how things have turned out. Residents who have lived here for decades but never talked are finally meeting each other again.”

FACTFILE

  • Under legislation introduced by the Government in the Localism Act 2011, community groups can register important buildings such as pubs, shops, libraries, as “assets of community value” when they are put up for sale.

This obliges the person, group or firm selling the building to “pause” the process for up to six months, so residents have time to raise money for a bid.
When this time is up and the bid is submitted, the seller examines the bids in a sealed process and selects a buyer.


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