Yorkshire Dales community takes on running of petrol station

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

A Yorkshire Dales community is thought to be the first in England to take over its own filling station to guarantee there is fuel available locally seven days a week.

The Upper Dales Community Partnership, a not-for-profit community company, backed by North Yorkshire County Council, is to lease the filling station in Hawes in the Upper Yorkshire Dales from November 1 this year.

During the three-year lease it intends to stage a community share offer to purchase the petrol station so the local community can own it in perpetuity, like the growing number of communities that now own their pubs.

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In recent years rural filling stations have all but disappeared so the nearest alternative full-time filling station from Hawes would require a 36 mile round trip along winding roads.

Hawes is so remote it is one of a small handful of communities in the UK that receives a Government fuel duty discount of 5p per litre – passed on in full to customers – to address the high cost of delivering a tanker of fuel.

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

“We feared it might fall prey to property developers as so many others have done.  Hawes retails a million litres of fuel annually to local people and tourists including 2,500 litres a month for our community transport service The Little White Bus.

“So you can see how dependent we are on having fuel available every day of the year.”

The Community Partnership will keep the filling station staffed and open 7 days-a-week.

It intends to extend the current opening hours by installing a self-service credit/debit card operated 24/7 fuel pump.  It also will seek to install a public charging point for electric cars to keep abreast of modern technology.

“We fully back this initiative as the filling station is a vital community resource” said County Councillor Carl Les, the Leader of North Yorkshire County Council.

“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.”

The Community Partnership is no stranger to providing local services.

From a building off the Market Place in Hawes provided by the County Council it operates a one-stop Community Office incorporating the town’s library, an internet café, the Police station, a Council enquiry / cash desk, and The Little White Bus community transport company which is the sole provider of local bus services throughout Wensleydale and Swaledale.

In 2014 the Hawes Post Office and Sorting Office was under threat of closure, and was successfully incorporated into the Community Office as well. Soon the Partnership will also be operating a community land trust to build affordable houses to rent to stem the outflow of local young families who cannot afford to buy a house locally.

The Partnership now has 19 employees and a team of 45 volunteers, who mainly drive the 10 Little White Buses, including 5 provided by the County Council.

“The key objective of the Upper Dales Community Partnership is to retain the accessibility of as many essential services as we can locally for the benefit of local people,” added Cllr Blackie.  “In doing this we have built upon the self-reliance and independence that are the renowned characteristics of our local communities”.

He added: “The Community Partnership is a national beacon of rural social enterprise but none of this would have been possible without the wholehearted support of North Yorkshire County Council, which has enthusiastically engaged in helping us to deliver all that we have achieved.

“Because of this Hawes can keep its filling station when so many others in the UK are but a distant memory”.