Plunkett Foundation has announced the 2016 winners of the Rural Community Ownership Awards at its event on Monday 28 November at Millbank Tower, London.

Winners included Yarpole Community Shop Association in Herefordshire, Ashton Hayes and Mouldsworth Village Shop in Chester, Awel Community Energy Coop in Swansea and The Kings Arms in Shouldham. Also recognised were Ballinderreen Community Centre in Galway, Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE), Raasay Community Shop, North Marston Community Shop in Buckingham and St Tudy Community Shop in Bodmin. Eddie Parsley, also from North Marston Community Shop, was voted as the People’s Choice Award winner, which saw over 400 votes being cast.

Judges from the Award sponsors Hastoe Housing Association, SUMA Wholefoods, Co-operative & Community Finance, WBC, The Co-operative College, NFRN, NFRN Mutual, The Phone Co-operative and Triodos selected the final winners from a shortlist and presented them with their plaque at the ceremony.

The Awards were hosted by Karen Lowthrop MBE, Plunkett Foundation Board of Trustees, and founder of pioneering woodland social enterprise Hill Holt Wood. Every year, Plunkett Foundation celebrates the most outstanding examples of the rural community co-operative sector. Now in their fourth year, the Awards showcase the co-operatives that have made a real difference to individuals within their communities, from helping to overcome social isolation and loneliness, to addressing specific health issues. They also recognise innovative business practices from both established rural co-operatives and newer enterprises.

Yarpole Community Shop Association in Herefordshire won the Midlands Award, sponsored by SUMA Wholefoods. Judges commended the shop for:

  • Volunteering - First community shop in UK to be awarded Queen’s Award for voluntary service
  • Youth engagement – school work experience schemes and link with local special needs school

Ashton Hayes & Mouldsworth Village Shop in Cheshire won the North of England Award, sponsored by The Co-operative College. Judges praised the group for:

  • Assisting the village with a high profile 'going carbon neutral' campaign
  • Membership support - the group supported Plunkett Foundation by hosting a members' meeting in October

Awel Community Energy Coop in Swansea won the Wales Award, sponsored by The Phone Co-operative. Judges commended the group for:

  • Raising over £1.3m from a community share offer, the highest ever in Wales to our knowledge
  • Profits – will be used to support the work of a local charity which tackles fuel poverty

The King’s Arms in Shouldham won the East of England Award, sponsored by Co-operative & Community Finance. Judges were particularly impressed with:

  • Monthly quizzes supporting charities such as Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The British Legion
  • Being awarded West Norfolk CAMRA Pub of the Year
  • Providing school meals to St Martins school at Shouldham

Ballinderreen Community Centre in Galway won the Republic of Ireland Award, sponsored by WBC. The judges were particularly impressed with:

  • Focus on young people – free of charge access to sports facilities for local primary school
  • Awards – honoured in 2015 by Galway County Council’s Social Inclusion Award

Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE) in Belfast won the Northern Ireland Award, sponsored by WBC. Feedback from the judges included:

  • Pioneering model with great social justice focus
  • Energy savings made to mental health services, arts and culture centres and childcare services

Raasay Community Shop on Isle of Raasay won the Scotland Award, sponsored by Triodos Bank. The judges commended the group for:

  • Keeping the shop open as otherwise the island could have ‘died’ as the nearest alternative shop is a ferry-ride, a car journey and about an hour away.
  • Providing a social hub for the local community

North Marston Community Shop in Buckingham won the South East of England Award, sponsored by NFRN. Praise from the judges included:

  • Putting profits into local projects such as funding a new roof for the village hall
  • Recycling waste fruit and vegetables to a local family who keeps chickens
  • Local food makes up 49% of turnover

St Tudy Community Shop in Bodmin won the South West of England Award, sponsored by NFRN Mutual. Judges were particularly impressed with:

  • The shop manager who takes particular care to involve all members of the community to get involved as volunteers – and particularly people in ill health and those with learning difficulties
  • Quarter of the local population being shareholders, showing good local support for the business

Eddie Parsley from North Marston Community Shop won the People’s Choice Award, sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association. For this award we asked co-operatives to nominate an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to their enterprise and therefore their wider community. The community nominated Eddie with the following statement:

“Eddie reckons we saved his life in 2011 when we appointed him Shop Manager. He told us that he re-applied for his job in a large supermarket but they would not re-appoint him because he was recovering from cancer. He was depressed and suffering from poor self-esteem. We could see what a delightful person he really was and could pick up on his knowledge of food retail of which we had no experience. So we appointed him! He is an amazing character, quick to notice if staff or customers are feeling down or under the weather and will attempt to cheer them up or to alert someone to the fact that they are poorly or haven’t been in to The Shop at their customary time or day. Eddie is a safety net for those who live alone or are elderly and infirm.”

James Alcock, Head of Frontline at Plunkett Foundation, said: “We are delighted with the response we have had to the Rural Community Ownership Awards. Entries came from a wide variety of community co-operative types, across both the regional and People’s Choice categories. With over 40 applications this year, our judges were extremely impressed with the calibre of entries.

He continued: “We wanted to shine the light on those community co-operatives who have gone above and beyond for their local community, and all of the entries to this year’s awards were making a big difference to local people. We would like to thank everyone who applied, and wish the winners special congratulations. We’d also like to thank our overall sponsor Hastoe Housing Association and the individual category sponsors for all of their support. We once again want to thank our fantastic supporters for helping us to make this special event possible, our supporters, friends and funders who helped us to celebrate the incredible achievements of our sector, and, most of all, the community co-operatives who sent us their entries for the awards.”

Check out our photos from the event on our Facebook page here.