Efforts by the Parish Council to find a business or chain willing to take on the retail unit were unsuccessful and, in May 2006, the council circulated a questionnaire to all residents seeking their views into the possibility of operating a community shop in the village. The findings were presented at a public meeting in June 2006 which saw the setting up of the Radley Village Shop Working Group under the auspices of the Parish Council to look at proposals to establish a new community shop in Radley – either in the new retail unit or elsewhere. In their research, the Working Group received much support and guidance from Jane Barker and others at Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (now Community First Oxfordshire).
The Working Group reported back to the village on its work through the Radley News and at a second public meeting attended by about 90 villagers in October 2006. Its efforts had included a survey into the level of interest in those willing to:
- support the venture by putting in money either as a donation or the purchase of shares
- help in some way such as serving in the shop or offering their time in some other way.
The survey also asked people what they would like a community shop to sell. The Working Group explained to those present at the meeting that:
- Funding would come from contributions (shares and donations) by Radley people together with grants and loans from organisations such as ORCC and ViRSA.
- The share scheme would be for the benefit of the community as a whole and would give members the right to vote on important matters concerning the shop. Any surpluses made by the shop would be used for community related projects.
- The survey produced almost 100 responses, raising commitments of almost £15,000, together with many offers of professional and practical help. Over 100 hours per week of shop assistance was offered, which would mean that all opening hours should be covered by at least one person – and hopefully in busy periods by two – in addition to the paid shop manager.
- A village resident who wished to remain anonymous had offered to acquire the freehold of the premises and lease them back to the village rent free for the first three years (i.e. while the shop gets on its feet).
- The commitment to acquire the premises, together with the grants and loans available, meant that the target for the village was to raise £20,000.
The response from the villagers at the meeting was one of overwhelming enthusiasm, with an almost unanimous vote in favour of proceeding. This was followed with the setting up of a Management Committee led by Graham Steinsberg as chairman. The shop project was underway!
In January 2007 the Management Committee heard the good news that it had been successful in obtaining a grant of £20,000 from the Village Retail Services Association (ViRSA) conditional on this being matched by donations and membership payments from the village.