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October 27, 2010

No shops? No problem

Work to prepare for the 2014 Commonwealth Games is well underway with a massive programme of compulsory purchase and demolition taking place.  The long term benefits will be appreciated by everyone but along the way, some short term problems have arisen.  One such issue arose recently when the people of Dalmarnock woke up to find the last of their local shops had closed to prepare for demolition.  Within 48 hours, the community had the problem solved

Gordon Thomson, Evening Times

People in the East End of Glasgow have launched their own general store after all local traders closed to make way for the 2014 Commonwealth Games athletes’ village. From a bag of sugar to a loaf, life’s bare essentials are now available at the area’s only community shop set up in the hall at Dalmarnock Centre.

It took just 48 hours for community activist Yvonne Kucuk and Calton Labour councillor George Redmond to lift the shutters after the last local business stopped trading. Yvonne explained: “Families awoke to find all the local shops closed through compulsory purchase orders.

“We thought the last one was staying open for another two weeks, so it came as a shock when it failed to open. There was nowhere locally for people to go to buy a newspaper or some bread and milk. This is also a bad area for fuel poverty and in one day we learned that in one day 17 people left with no electricity as there was no PayPoint for them to top up.”

She and George decided a community-run shop based in the community centre was the answer.

George, who runs a local Credit Union, arranged a £1000 interest-free loan to buy stock from fresh bread and rolls to coffee and tea, soft drinks, bottles of water and packs of crisps. Yvonne also persuaded PayPoint to install a terminal to enable locals to enable people to top up their utility accounts and pay bills such as their council tax.

George also plans to have credit union staff in the hall to advise locals struggling to pay bills.

Yvonne said: “The nearest supermarket is a long walk away at Farme Cross while the nearest Post Office is a half-mile walk to Parkhead Cross.”  PayPoint has also been persuaded to install the area’s only ATM cash machine while officials at the Glasgow East Regeneration Company will hand over a new mini-bus to the centre.

Volunteers will use it to take pensioners on shopping trips while Yvonne and George hope to expand facility by moving it into a large portable cabin or mobile shop. The initiative could see former Castlemilk High teenager David Stewart become one of the city’s youngest shopkeepers. The 17-year-old is at the community centre from early morning, in time for deliveries. He’s there to open the shop at 6am. The store trades seven days a week until 10pm.

Councillor Redmond said it is a not-for-profit enterprise which was to have been launched later this month.  But he explained: “We expected the last shop to close in the middle of October.  Instead it was shut at the September weekend, which caught everyone by surprise and meant the area was without a shop.  It underlines the scale of change in Dalmarnock. We’ve probably never seen anything like it before in Scotland where you have people living in a community while bigger community is being created all around them. The general store will be community-led. The community will dictate what items they want.  We’re already talking about introducing fruit and veg. Pensions and benefits will soon be paid into the credit union.”

David volunteered to be shopkeeper and there’s every possibility he will be taken on full-time.

He said: “I wanted to help and ended up meeting a lot of people and I’ve made a lot a new friends but I hope to get a job.”

Maria Biello, 78, who lives nearby and used to work at a local chip shop said: “It’s really good to have something like that here. All the shops shut but being able to come here to buy my essentials is great.”

The nearest shops were all in tenements adjacent to the community hall in Springfield Road. But the redstone tenements will be demolished.

Glasgow City Council said around 1000 square metres of retail space will eventually be provided in the area and a spokesman said of the community centre facility: “Their efforts to help the residents during this period of transition are to be applauded.”