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Heart of communities under threat

PUBLISHED: 16:01 31 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:29 03 March 2010

RESIDENTS of two Suffolk villages were dealt a hammer blow today with the news that rescue bids to save the shop and post office in both communities looked to have failed.

RESIDENTS of two Suffolk villages were dealt a hammer blow today with the news that rescue bids to save the shop and post office in both communities looked to have failed.

Hopes that a new owner would be found for Stutton Post Office and Village Store collapsed with the news that Kevin and Sue Brudenell are giving up trying to sell the business as a going concern and are applying to put the property on the market as a residential home.

The store has been up for sale since January but Mr Brudenell says that the squeeze on rural post offices combined with soaring house prices has meant the value of the period property now outweighs the cost of running it as a viable business.

There has been no interest in the sale and the couple stands to lose tens of thousands of pounds if they continue trying to sell the store as a going concern.

The news comes as chairman of Washbrook and Copdock Parish Council, Keith Armes, warned that the shop and post office there was also likely to close at the end of September.

The business has been on the market for nearly two years but a buyer has still not been found. An appeal to villages to take over the shop as a community venture met with no response and it is now likely the store will close with the departure of current proprietor, Eunice Parker.

Mr Brudenell says he hung on as long as he could in a bid to save the shop for the village but he now plans to apply to Babergh District Council for a change of use to residential as soon as possible.

The 54-year-old former civil engineer said: "It doesn't necessarily mean we are going to implement it – but I really feel we have looked at all the possibilities we can reasonably be expected to have looked at. It gives us more flexibility and breathing space if we have change of use.

"I don't even know what the Post Office is doing about it yet. Between them and the government they have really messed things up."

The government's decision to phase out retirement relief from capital gains tax plus moves to have pensions and benefits paid into banks thereby removing a major source of post office income has forced Mr Brudenell and his wife, 51, into early retirement, he said.

Whatever the council decides on the change of use application it is financially vital that they sell the six-bedroom property before April 2003, when the halt on capital gains tax relief comes into effect.

Failure to do so will leave the couple, who have four grown children, with a house far to large for their needs.

Although Mr Brudenell believes that a store and post office is no longer essential for modern Stutton (a survey revealed only 11-12 per cent of households used the shop regularly) he said that not having it "would be a terrible loss for the village".

"I don't think it would be the same village without it," he added.

The business will be kept nominally on sale until the outcome of the change of use is known.

Meanwhile Bonaventure Vas and his wife Tessy who own NLM Newsagents in Holbrook are considering putting the store on the market "in the near future."

Mr Vas, 53, said that the Holbrook Co-op's decision to start selling national newspapers two years ago had "clipped ten per cent profit off all newsagents on the Shotley peninsula" and rendered his own business untenable in the long term.

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