In December 2013 the only 2 shops serving the communities of Castle Bytham and Little Bytham and the adjacent hamlets closed. Within a short period a Steering Group (SG), formed by local people undertook a feasibility study of the merits of local community shops and possibility of identifying potential sites for such a shop. The average distance for the Bytham communities to the nearest small shops is a round trip 6 miles; and 20 miles to and from the nearest major urban shopping centres.
It was decided that an essential requirement of the project was to be able to draft a Business Plan. Following a costing and analysis of 9 possible potential sites the Steering Group decided that the project should consist of two phases; phase 1 was the acquisition and equipping of a suitable premises and phase 2 was a Business Plan for the operation and management of a community shop and cafe. The feasibility study indicated the best long term site option was a new venue more central to the main settlement areas of both villages offering off road parking.
It was also decided that the new community would allocate 2/3 of the available facility floor space to a shop and the remainder to a community cafe to reinforce the concept of it serving as a community hub. Throughout this process the Steering Group received support and guidance from the Plunkett Foundation, including numerous case studies of, and visits to, other community shops. Plunkett, Lincolnshire CVS and Lincolnshire County Council grant fund managers provided invaluable help with guidance on fund raising. The Steering Group registered the project as an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS Registration 32400R) – renamed “Community Benefit Society” in August 2014, and instigated a programme of fund raising for phase 1.