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Outcry As Charity Shop Prepares To Open

A milestone has been reached as reports suggest the former M&Co unit is let to a Clydebank based hospice.

After one year and four months on the rental market, Penicuik’s former M&Co unit, located at 40 John Street, may have been let to St Margaret’s Hospice. The hospice, which specialises in caring for people with advanced life-limiting illnesses, is believed to have let the nine thousand square foot retail unit for the controversial sum of £55,000 per annum.

Later this year St Margaret’s Hospice aims to utilise the large unit to sell used pieces of furniture and used electrical appliances, both large and small. An opening date is unknown however as yet the letting agent is still to inform the public that the unit may either have let or be in the late stages of the offer making process. This could show that an opening date is still under discussion.

This news comes as a letting spree is concluded in the north block of Penicuik’s shopping precinct. The block of units (Lloyds Pharmacy – The Post Office) contained mainly vacant units however after three units where let last month, this latest letting will mean that the block is now fully occupied. The newly let units will have St Margaret’s Hospice, William Purves and an unnamed indian takeaway as occupants. A remaining shoe shop has also let but the occupant is unknown.

However upon the revelation of St Margaret’s acquisition, outrage was rife amongst a substantial part of the local community. Many took to social networking to express their discontent, with one person saying the following:

Charity [is] always a good thing but, does Penicuik really need another charity shop and another take-away? I’d say, prob not. Shopping in Penicuik is poor and laughable. Sad but true.

Many also began to envisage other uses for the shop, with a multi-use market being the most favoured outcome. Another person told of how locals described Penicuik as a ‘ghost town’:

I passed a couple of ladies in the precinct today and overheard one of them say “it’s a ghost town” and it absolutely is because there’s nothing to go to the precinct for anymore! We need a butchers, fruit shop, nice bakers, cafe etc to draw people out.

This was refuted by others who claimed that Penicuik’s local economy would be in a better state had the locals used the established shops whilst they were open. Unfortunately it is unlikely that we can see a return to the idyllic town centre image but with many vacant units in Penicuik, the possibility will still remain.

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Comment Would A Co-Operative Market Be Viable?

Opening a new co-operative in the footprint of the Penicuik Co-Operative Association, would of course be expected to be difficult. However as high streets struggle to survive across the country, smaller businesses coming together to form a co-operative may not be such a bad idea.

It is the belief of many Penicuik townsfolk that the rental rates are too high for any new business start up to even contemplate opening in the town, and they are not wrong, we do have high rental rates but these are due to the properties being owned by an independent landlord and not the council. For a new business to open then, they must either take out a large loan, which they could struggle to pay back, or they could unite with other new businesses to rent a larger unit. The latter would have been perfect for 40 John Street. The unit itself is large enough to split into seven retail spaces. Three would be situated to the left of the unit and another three would be situated to the right with one smaller concession in the space in between. All six outer units would have the same floor space amounting to around 62 metres squared each. The middle concession would be smaller with a floorspace of approximately a third of the larger units.

Now if we look at costs of these new ‘pop-up’ units, we can see where establishing a co-operative makes sense. The outer units would cost around £925 per month, or if you prefer £11,100 per annum. The middle concession would be far less at £330 pm, £4000 pa. These figures are inclusive of the annual fees. However how would the initial capital be raised? That huge sum of £55,000 would be difficult to overcome but in true co-operative style, a new initiative called ‘Crowd Funding’ could be used. Provided by a company called Spacehive, the public, and other business and organisations, could donate towards establishing the new Penicuik Co-Operative. Start-up fees would be limited as only the partitioning of the space would be required. So all in all you are looking at around a £60000 sum, which is not impossible to raise on Spacehive with their largest project raising a cool £400k.

To summarise, a local co-operative market could probably be established quite quickly and easily and it would allow great scope for new smaller businesses to gain a foothold in the potential ridden high street. Interested in forming a co-operative with others? If so, send our partners at Penicuik Rethought a note,

by Thomas Scott, Editor-In-Chief