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Watten shop takes step towards community buyout thanks to £30k wind farm fund


By John Davidson

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Woodside Village Store in Watten is now being leased by a new community group as it works towards purchasing the shop.
Woodside Village Store in Watten is now being leased by a new community group as it works towards purchasing the shop.

A community group has taken over the local grocery store at Watten as it works towards purchasing the shop.

The newly established Watten Shop Group has been supported by a grant of nearly £30,000 from the RWE Camster Wind Farm Community Fund.

The money has allowed the group to lease the shop for six months while it progresses its business plan to purchase the building.

Woodside Stores had been on the market for some time and Watten residents feared it would close or be repurposed, and the community would lose its much-loved local grocery shop.

An online questionnaire organised by Foundation Scotland showed strong support for a takeover which led Caithness Voluntary Groups’ development officer to stage a community meeting at Watten Hall to allow local people to volunteer to join a steering group to take the project forward.

The RWE Camster Wind Farm Community Fund panel, which has four members who live in Watten, was keen to do what they could to help a local group form to take over the shop. They organised a contractor to undertake a structural survey and valuation so that a group, if formed, could hit the ground running.

The wind farm panel also allocated some funds to buy in specialist support from the Plunkett Foundation, which specialises in community takeovers of local assets, and a microgrant ensured that the group would have a small petty cash budget for holding meetings or producing leaflets.

Now established as a Community Benefit Society, Watten Shop Group has been awarded £29,233 from the RWE Camster Wind Farm Fund to lease the shop for a period of six months while the group proceeds with the purchase of the shop.

The group has recently published a business plan, and is now working on a community share offer alongside further funding applications to enable the purchase of the shop. The business plan can be viewed at: https://www.foundationscotland.org.uk/about-us/our-news/watten-shop-moving-into-communitys-hands

Sam Wybrew, Watten Shop Group’s treasurer, said: “This grant to lease the shop whilst we go through the process of the purchase means that the Watten community doesn’t need to risk losing the local shop which was in severe danger of closure.

“It will allow the committee the time needed to properly plan the shop purchase and refit, and gain significant learning from the wealth of experience from the current owners. We are very grateful to the RWE Camster Wind Farm panel for this opportunity.”

Katy Woodington, RWE community investment team lead UK & Ireland, said: “Watten Shop Group is a wonderful example of a local community putting itself in the driving seat to steer RWE wind farm community funds. It is great to see the local community empowered to really understand what their local area needs and make plans to save and strengthen their local shop, a key service for rural areas like this.”


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