Ashburton postmaster launches fund to extend town’s library

Ashburton Postmaster Stuart Rogers in the Community Library © Chris Saville

Postmaster Stuart Rogers, together with his wife Jackie, recently celebrated eight years to the day since taking over Ashburton Post Office on 30th April, 2013.

To celebrate their eighth anniversary the community-driven couple have launched an ambitious plan and a series of fund raising initiatives to extend the town’s library which is sited within the Post Office itself.

After appreciating over time what the local community required from the Post Office and their modest card
and stationery shop, two years later Stuart and Jackie fully refurbished the premises at the top of Lawrence Lane in Ashburton and combined it with the town’s library, which had previously been sited behind the
town hall.

It was a move which turned out to be a master stroke and has been to the benefit of both services and the local community ever since.

Six years on and with many community fundraising initiatives for local causes achieved in between – endeavours which in part, earned Stuart the British Empire Medal from Her Majesty in 2018 – the couple are now embarking on probably their most ambitious project to date.

Stuart is hoping that their application to extend the library onto a second level, thus greatly increasing the space available for public use, will receive the full support of the planning authorities.

Stuart has been working closely with Ashburton Town Council, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Devon Libraries Unlimited to achieve his and Jackie’s vision to ‘include the excluded’. Ashburton based architects van Ellen & Sheryn, have played a key role too, offering their time and expertise by designing the extension of the library free of charge, a gesture which Stuart describes as ‘humbling’.

In addition to architects van Ellen & Sheryn’s generosity, which has saved the project thousands of pounds, Stuart and Jackie originally launched the ‘Build Fund’ last year by personally donating a set amount into the fund when the public used key Post Office services.

The scheme provided a benchmark to the level of financial support they might expect to generate towards the new library extension but the total raised, a phenomenal £10,000+, far exceeded even Stuart’s optimistic expectations.

A recent innovation in an effort to boost the Build Fund is the introduction of a wooden post card featuring the Ashburton Post Office branding and produced by the Wooden Postcard Company using only sustainable materials.

Stuart is asking every Ashburton resident and business to collect a blank postcard free of charge and to record ‘why the Ashburton Post Office & Library is important to you’.

Although these are free to every Ashburton resident and business, donations to the cause would be most welcome while visitors to Ashburton can also join in the fun by buying one of these unique wooden postcards for just £3.99 of which £1 will go towards the library Build Fund. Stocks of these limited edition postcards will be available from Saturday, 8th May. To appreciate the company behind these distinctive and collectible gifts visit www.thewoodenpostcardcompany.com

Stuart and Jackie’s green credential doesn’t end there as they are also planning to stock a range of Woodland Trust Office Paper produced by Premier Paper. Working with the Woodland Trust through Dartmoor National Park, the couple are hoping to encourage more tree planting around Dartmoor. For every A4 pack of the paper sold, 5p of the wholesale price goes directly to the Trust. Of this, 2p goes towards Woodland Carbon and 3p to the Trust’s other work, such as the protection and restoration of ancient woodland making it ‘the paper that plants trees’ as the company motto heralds.

While Stuart is proud to be the town’s postmaster and is dedicated to promoting the Post Office as an essential local community service, the Post Office itself as a national entity is currently reeling from the fall-out of the flawed Horizon accounting software which saw former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses wrongly prosecuted for false accounting and theft in the UK’s most widespread miscarriage of justice, Stuart hopes that the Post Office will have learned from those mistakes.

“Having joined the Post Office in April 2013, the scandal that has emerged recently happened before our time,” said Stuart. “Nevertheless, for the sake of our colleagues who went through that awful period I just want to see the wrongs from the past put right.”

Stuart and Jackie’s passion and enthusiasm for both the Post Office and their local community is both infectious and inspirational, while their fund-raising efforts are something Stuart hopes other communities will follow. “We are proud to have served the valued residents and businesses of Ashburton and beyond for the last eight years,” he said. “While much of what we have achieved has been self-generating thanks to much local support, the Government has just launched a ‘community ownership fund’ which I would urge other communities to consider.”

Stuart is keen to emphasise that while they will not be applying to the community ownership fund themselves to fund the build, other local communities may wish to visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-ownership-fund/community-ownership-fund to identify the criteria for this timely government support.

Author: Eric Partridge

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