HUDDERSFIELD’S oldest village shop is to close – leaving residents without a store.
And it means no shop for the thousands who live in Highburton after 150 years.
Highburton Village Stores has been at the hub of its community since its doors were first opened in 1856.
The village’s only shop, founded by Highburton Co-operative Society, claims to be oldest independent store of its kind in the world.
But the credit crunch and increasing competition from supermarkets has left the Moor Lane store struggling and its owners have decided to close it.
The decision is a huge blow to the five staff members who now face redundancy and the loyal customers who have supported the shop over the years.
Locals now face longer journeys into the surrounding villages for their groceries, which will be difficult for those who rely on the infrequent bus service.
Beverley Pankhurst has been working at the shop since she moved to the village and was devastated to hear the news that it will close on February 27.
Her husband Peter said: “The staff were told the news last Friday and they were very upset.
“It’s extremely sad that we are going to lose our community shop.
“It has been here for 150 years and it is a part of local history. There’s still a lot of elderly people that grew up with it and it’s been a part of many peoples’ lives for years.”
The shop is run by a small committee which also owns the two-storey building.
Two years ago the Society held talks with Wooldale Co-op to merge the two stores, but the deal fell through leaving the store facing an uncertain future.
The shop’s sad decline has been put down to a dwindling customer base.
The credit crunch has also hit it hard and its struggle to compete against other stores has taken its toll.
Mr Pankhurst said: “It’s a generation thing, years ago people used to do all their shopping at their local village shop but now they prefer to go to the supermarket where there’s more choice or shop online.
“The credit crunch hasn’t helped and people are shopping elsewhere and just picking up essentials like bread and milk from their local shop because supermarkets are more competitive – the proposed Tesco Express store for Kirkburton has also added to the fear of the store making losses.
“But the shop will be missed by many living in the village. I think the elderly especially will miss the social aspect the shop brings; that sense of being part of a community.”
For those in the village who still rely on the shop its closure will have a big impact, particularly on the elderly and those without transport as the bus service into nearby villages like Kirkburton are infrequent.
Former councillor Mike Greetham said the loss of the shop is a huge blow to the community.
He said: “The news is extremely sad for the people of the village.
“I have tried to run a ‘use it or lose it’ campaign to remind people of its value to the community. Regrettably it failed and so now, tragically, has the Co-op.
“It was a good general store where you could buy anything from starters for fluorescent tubes to flour and baked beans.
“In the last 30 years we will have seen a thriving village with three shops, including a very good butcher, hairdressers and pub pare to the pub alone.
“I want to thank the efforts of all the managers and staff who over all the years who have served our community.
“They have been there through thick and thin bringing cheer and the news to all of us who called in. I only wish more people had done.”
What will become of the building if it is sold is unclear but locals are hoping that someone will step in to save the village’s only shop – perhaps a new community group that will spend money on it to return it to its former glory.
Manager Roger Wilson confirmed that the shop will close but couldn’t confirm what will happen to the building until the committee’s next meeting.
He added: “We were all sickened by the decision. It’s been in the village for a very long time and I think a few people will be sad to see it go.
“It did well in the past but it’s been struggling for some time.
If it hadn’t been for a few loyal people it would have gone a long time ago.”