Community to take on own fuel station to ensure sustainability

Cllr John Blackie (centre) at the Hawes filling station with Cllr Carl Les, (far left), North Yorkshires Leader, volunteer drivers of the Little White Bus and Upper Dales residents

A remote community in the Yorkshire Dales, in a move to ensure its long-term sustainability, is set to become the first in the country to take over its own filling station.

Residents in Hawes, deep in the Upper Dales, have at times been faced with a 36-mile round trip along winding roads to get petrol as many stations have disappeared in recent years.

Now, the Upper Dales Community Partnership, with backing from the county council, is set to lease its own filling station to ensure fuel is available locally seven days a week.

“We see the retention of a filling station as absolutely essential to the well-being of our Upper Dales communities,” said County Coun John Blackie, who has been the executive chairman of the partnership since it started 20 years ago.

“Everybody recognises, and not least the county council, that unless we have fuel available, a place like Hawes is not going to have a viable community.”

The partnership, a not-for-profit company, already runs a community office in Hawes incorporating the town’s library, internet cafe, police station and council office.

When the Post Office was threatened with closure in 2014, it was also taken on, and the partnership also operates The Little White Bus company, the sole provider of services through Wensleydale and Swaledale.

The team, made up of 19 employees and 45 volunteers, is committed to ensuring the sustainability of these rural communities, Mr Blackie has said.

And now, with the lease of the filling station set to begin on November 1, it is hoped that with the promise of fuel available locally, residents, businesses and tourists will all benefit.

“It is vitally important to have these services available locally,” said Coun Blackie. “The alternative, at times, would be a 36 mile return journey, simply to buy fuel. That means it’s very expensive in terms of both cost and time. t’s not just residents and communities that will benefit, it’s fuel for tourists as well, who come here in their thousands.

“We are trying to build on that element of self-reliance, which actually is a real characteristic feature of a deeply rural community.”

The community in Hawes is so remote it is already one of only a handful in the country to be granted a Government fuel discount of 5p a litre to address the high cost of delivery. The goal is for the new filling station to be staffed and open seven days a week, with hopes to extend opening hours by installing a self-service pump, and potentially a charging point for electric cars.

Over the course of the three-year lease, the partnership also intends to stage a community share offer to purchase the petrol station, so that the community can own it in perpetuity in a scheme similar to that which sees many residents owning their own village pubs.

“We fully back this initiative as the filling station is a vital community resource” said County Coun Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC). “The County Council is totally committed to the sustainability of our rural communities, transforming the way things are done to keep services going. For this reason we have given long-term support to ensure the success of the Upper Dales Community Partnership.”

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