A MOVE to liquidate Highburton Co-op has been taken a step further – just days before a crunch meeting to save it.
The tiny village lost its only shop, the 153-year-old Co-operative store, in February last year.
The historic premises at the junction of Moor Lane and Northfield Lane have been lying empty ever since.
But, as reported in The Examiner last week, a campaign to bring the shop back was building up steam ahead of a vital meeting of members on Tuesday.
The meeting of the village’s Independent Co-op Society, believed to be the oldest in the world, is due to decide whether or not to wind it up.
But shocked villagers have now discovered that a planning application to change the shop into a house has already been submitted.
The plan, by Fenay Bridge based couple Jonathan and Ann Taylor, would see the shop converted into a three or four-bed detached home.
No exterior changes are planned.
A comment on the ‘Neighbour and Community Consultation’ section of the planning application form says; “Spoke with several people who don’t see a problem and also several members of the Co-op.”
But Mike Greetham, chairman of the Kirkburton and Highburton Community Association, said they would fight the application.
He said: “This building is the last site in the village for a shop. If it is lost to more housing then the village can wave goodbye to ever having a village shop.
“I cannot see that Kirklees can allow this to happen given the Government guidelines to take into account the importance of the shop to the local community.
“People are extremely upset as their worst fears are being confirmed and I expect a huge negative response to this application.”
Three-years-ago the struggling society held talks with three-store strong Wooldale Co-operative.
But the deal fell through and Highburton was forced to close amid a dwindling customer base and the worsening financial crisis.
Speaking last week Mr Greetham said support for re-launching a village shop on the site was growing as the economic climate picked up.
Mr Greetham said a lot of work was going into a new business plan and the group had been consulting with other Co-ops and researching if grants or loans were available.
If the premises were sold, members of the Highburton Co-operative Society could be eligible to shares of the proceeds.
But Mr Greetham said he thought the 40 members would prefer to have their shop back as travelling to Kirkburton or Waterloo Morrisons was not ideal.
He added: “A shop is an important thing in a village. People are saying ‘you never see so-and-so anymore’ because we’ve lost part of our social network.”