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November 10, 2010

Freshly baked community enterprise

Everyone knows the irresistible smell of freshly bread baked and the folk of Dunbar have missed that particular pleasure ever since the town’s last baker decided to shut up shop two years ago.  But community enterprise is thriving in this east coast town and 250 residents have already taken shares in what will be Scotland’s first community owned bakery. Due to open early next year, new premises have recently been secured

Brian Donnelly, The Herald

It is reminiscent of the industrial co-operative societies that formed the core of communities living through the hard times of yesteryear.

Hundreds of people from all walks of life have put their cash in for a slice of Scotland’s first community bakery, two years after their local shop closed its doors.

The Dunbar Community Bakery enterprise, whose 250 members have each bought shares worth between £50 and thousands of pounds, has bought a shop in the town’s High Street and is aiming to open an artisan bakery selling bread made on the premises by early next year.

Residents of the seaside town have welcomed the new venture, which will be housed in an old newsagent in an 18th-century A-listed building.

Agnes Arthur, 67, said it would mean a return to an old tradition for her family.

The sooner the better. Anything that can help the High Street is very welcome.

Peter Whitecross, Whitecross butchers

“We could get our fresh-baked bread and then go a few doors down for bacon from the butcher like we used to,” she said.

Peter Whitecross, of Whitecross butchers, said: “The sooner the better. Anything that can help the High Street is very welcome.”

One shopper on the High Street, Margaret Johnston, said: “We had an excellent baker before and there’s been talk about this for a long time. Whether they’ll be able to manage it in this climate I don’t know.”

But resident Sue Guy, 47, said: “It is going to be fantastic. I have bought a share and I bought one for my 11-year-old daughter Farlan. I liked the idea of her growing up as part of this.”

The entire start-up costs will be about £180,000. A potential £120,000 in grants is in the pipeline, and £12,000 in funding from organisations that support social enterprise has already been obtained.

Shareholders have pledged £34,000, leaving a target of about £14,000 still to be secured.

The enterprise has already applied for planning permission to open its bakery, with plans for a new production area at the back of the building and a shop with a small cafe at the front.

Robert Powell, secretary of Dunbar Community Bakery, said bread baking classes were also planned as another way to ensure the venture helps to bring the heart back to the High Street.

He said: “The idea is not just to bake bread. As well as being a modest employer of seven or eight people, we would try and revive the High Street.

We would also hope to be a social employer for people with disabilities.

“Shareholders so far include people from all walks of life – business people, farmers, blue and white-collar workers, people who have holiday homes here and even one or two who have emigrated.”

The enterprise was the brainchild of the Sustaining Dunbar green community network, which said that while other shops may provide baked products, none offer bread baked in-house on the High Street.

Jane Wood, chairwoman of the bakery’s management committee, said: “We are delighted to have signed a long lease on 60 High Street.

“We have submitted plans to convert the flat roof extension at the back into a bakery production area. There will be a shop with a small cafe at the front.”

More than half of Scotland’s high street bakeries have gone out of business over the past 20 years due to competition from the supermarkets and out-of-town shopping malls.

Local MSP Iain Gray, leader of the Scottish Labour Party, said: “This is a great example of what can be achieved when people pull together for the benefit of the community.”