VILLAGERS were celebrating this weekend after hearing the surprise news that their historic village store is to reopen.
Highburton lost its only shop, the 153-year-old co-operative store, in February 2009.
The closure of the Moor Lane shop was all the more controversial because it was believed to be the oldest co-op in the world.
Angry villagers campaigned and planned to resurrect the store themselves, but the idea was scuppered last March when the village’s co-operative society was officially wound up, leaving the building’s owners free to sell it off.
But now, more than six months on, villagers are looking forward to being able to shop locally again after a lucky break.
Former Skelmanthorpe resident Peter Clegg moved to the village just a few weeks after the shop closed its doors for the last time.
Within weeks he was trying to buy the building and open his own shop without any knowledge of the controversial closure or the community fight to re-open it.
Now 18 months after arriving Mr Clegg, 51, is just a few weeks away from completing his £30,000 revamp of the shop. It is set to open to shoppers as Highburton Village Store on Monday, December 6.
The former steel worker said he was more than happy to be the village’s accidental retail saviour. He said: “It is fate, because when I came into the village obviously there was no shop. I did ask around and we contacted somebody on the internet to find out if the shop was up for sale but nobody seemed to know.
“The next thing I know it came on the market. I put a bid in to buy, but I wasn’t successful, but I asked the landlord if I could rent the space for a shop and he said ‘yes’.
“It’s a complete change of lifestyle for me. For 35 years I’ve been in the steel industry, but I did set a shop up with a mate in Linthwaite and I found out how good it was and how it took off so when this opportunity presented itself I thought let’s go for it. I can’t wait to get started.”
The independent shop will trade under the Premier banner and will offer a full range of produce along with a cash machine. Mr Clegg is also hoping to get a National Lottery machine.
It will be open Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8pm and from 9-6pm on Sundays.
Mike Greetham, chairman of the Kirkburton and Highburton Community Association, said they were thankful Mr Clegg had stepped in.
He said: “The village is buzzing about it, we’re very excited. We’re very impressed with the work that’s being done. It’s been nearly two years that we’ve not had a shop, it’s been very badly missed. I dread to think of all the petrol that’s been used running down to Kirkburton or Morrisons.
“The community association have had a number of meetings and a public meeting and the level of support has been tremendous. If we couldn’t have got a commercial set up to run it then we would have tried to run a co-op ourselves.
“We’re very lucky that someone came along that wanted to open a shop so we didn’t need to get into the issue of forming a new co-operative – that was a last resort.
“We’re sure that people will use it, we’re very excited and looking forward to it opening.”