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The empty supermarket on Bell Street could be transformed into a multi-use retail, leisure and community space if a community-led plan is successful.

A group named ‘Project Belle’ is planning to create in the old Co-op and Budgens building what it calls ‘a viable, lively and exciting edition to the townscape.’

During the summer, representatives of the Shaftesbury Civic Society, Swan’s Trust, Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce, Neighbourhood Plan and Shaftesbury Town Council’s Economic Advisory Group have been working closely with Shaftesbury Town Council’s business manager, Brie Logan, to assess the site’s long-term viability.

This steering group, which has adopted the working title ‘Project Belle’, is intending to steer a locally-driven bid for the site.

Project Belle first met to discuss uses for the former Co-op store following Shaftesbury Town Council’s consultation exercise. This was prompted by the pending sale of the Cattle Market.

During that engagement event, some residents voiced concern that the town centre site was empty. A number of people also said that there was a need for a town centre grocery store, to serve residents in the western side of town.

Project Belle’s proposed uses for the site could include a convenience store, small retail units, affordable workspaces for start-up businesses, a fitness centre and some small, affordable-rental flats. The team is currently working on a detailed feasibility study.

As part of this exercise, the Project Belle team has also been actively investigating funding sources. It is likely that the money to purchase the building will need to be borrowed in the short to medium term.

Further funding sources are being assessed and could include a community share option, community land trust and grants.

The empty supermarket is currently in the hands of the receivers, who are now actively marketing the building through their agents. It is thought that they are hoping to attract bids by the end of November.

Project Belle’s acting Chair Jackie Upton King said that a sound case is being made to enable the project but she added a cautionary note, that time pressures could threaten its chance of success.

The group say that they have issued this statement to make all Shaftesbury residents aware of this community-led project.

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