ONCE a forge dating from the late 19th century, the single storey building in the middle of Kennerleigh became a shop and could now be replaced by a much more convenient and efficient building.

In 2014 when the owner said she wanted to retire, local people created a Community Benefit Society which funded buying the Stores and its stock as well as employing staff and taking on volunteers to run the shop.

Now plans have gone to Mid Devon District Council to replace the existing shop with a new shop, Post Office and community building, looking very much like the old but making better use of the space.

In its information to the district council, Kennerleigh and District Community Benefit Society Management Committee said that it is not just a convenience store and Post Office and a place for social gatherings, it provides an essential social service to the community.

It also serves Woolfardisworthy, Thelbridge, Black Dog, Washford Pyne, Puddington and Poughill - and all the houses and farmsteads in between.

The Society says it has an impressive catchment of customers who use it either as an alternative to travelling to Crediton or as an important stop to meet neighbours who they might otherwise not see for months at a time.

In 2020 and 2021, the Stores saw an increased footfall due to office closures and home working during lockdowns.

It provided a focal point and, says the Society: “In many ways the Stores has kept on doing what it has always done, but the last 18 months have shone a light on how important it is to the community and what a devastating loss it would be if it was not there.”

It continued: “New premises for the Stores with a single level floor, no trip hazards, full accessibility to wheelchair users, functioning plumbing and drainage and with good insulation and ventilation would massively improve the Stores’ offering to the community and employees as well as literally being a safe space for everyone."

An area behind the shop has been donated, meaning a bigger building can be built, parking at the front would be kept, the red Giles Gilbert Scott designed K6 telephone box would remain and there would be a small outdoor sitting space for customers.

The Society’s consultants, Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants, comment that the building has some historic significance having been the village smithy dating from the late 19th century, but neutral aesthetic significance architecturally.

All documents can be read on the Mid Devon District Council website, the planning number is Kennerleigh 31 21/01973/FULL.

Deadline for comments is Tuesday, November 9.