The Little White Bus service as well as the Post Office and Library at Hawes are in jeopardy because the pension fund which owns Dale Head Garage in the town wants to sell it, Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council was told at its meeting on Tuesday.
Cllr David Colley, who is a director of the Upper Dales Community Partnership (UDCP), told the parish council that the garage was run for the community by UDCP under a lease which expires next year.
As well as selling fuels at the lowest price in the area, it generates profits which are used to support the Post Office, the Little White Bus service and the Library.
He said: “A lot of people think that Dale Head Garage is a community owned garage but it’s not. It is owned by a private pension fund and it has decided to liquidate the assets and sell it off.
“A private owner would keep all the profits for themselves which would put the Little White Bus service, the Post Office, the Library and all the things that go with them in great jeopardy.”
The Post Office is even more important now, he said, because that at Thoralby was either closed or about to close.
He added: “We have negotiated a six month window – a moratorium effectively – which gives us an opportunity to try and raise the finance to buy the garage as a genuine community owned garage.
“We are proposing to do this by raising a local public share offering and we also plan to apply for grants [national and regional].
“What we would like to do is to get as many owners as possible to make this a genuine community asset.”
To do this they would like to see 80 to 100 or more small investors making a minimum investment of £1,000 each in a new Community Benefit Society, a special purpose company regulated under the Financial Services Act.
They didn’t want the garage to be owned by three or four large investors and so would give priority to smaller ones.
He explained that it was planned that private investors would receive an annual interest rate of approximately four per cent with a four pence per litre discount on the pump price of fuel, purchased for a specified vehicle, at the garage.
He said there would be posters and a mail shot soon to inform residents in Upper Swaledale, Mid and Upper Wensleydale and a few other outlying areas.
UDCP had informed the parish council: “We now want to make everyone, in the area served by the Dale Head Garage, aware of the proposal and the opportunity to participate in securing the future of the garage as a genuine community owned facility.
“If sufficient interest is generated, public meetings will be held, and detailed documents will be issued.
“The purpose of the meetings will be to answer specific questions, review investment and operating risks, and discuss the proposed management structure of the garage and the Community Benefit Society.”
Two councillors, Jill McMullon and David Stephenson, declared an interest and left the room during the discussion. The rest of the councillors unanimously agreed that the parish council should support this initiative.