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West Cheshire Credit Union Latest in List of Successful Ventures Relocating to Whitby Road, Ellesmere Port

25 February 2014  – The West Cheshire Credit Union – which provides local residents with affordable saving and loan products – will opened its doors on Ellesmere Port’s Whitby Road in April.

The first shop to be opened by the Union, which had previously been based within Ellesmere Port market and Trinity Church, the organisation can now benefit from being located on the high street, close to the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Relocating to 13 Whitby Road as part of the Council’s Empty Shop Refurbishment Scheme, the Union will benefit from a two year peppercorn rent from landlord Access2Training&Employment, which bought the property and is currently refurbishing the shops and creating six affordable flats above.

The Credit Union will be the latest in a long list of successful new ventures being attracted to the Whitby Road High Street following prioritisation by Cheshire West Council and the Ellesmere Port Development Board.

Neil Jay, Manager of West Cheshire Credit Union, said:  “Working with Jochem and Gary we have managed to find a suitable location for our very first shop front. This is a major step forward in the development of West Cheshire Credit Union and will bring our business into the public eye.

“We have already discussed as part of our plans to display essential electrical goods in the shop front making an affordable option to the weekly payment stores in the town. 

“Our loan rates are hard to beat compared to the plethora of pawnbrokers, money shops and payday lenders that have taken a stronghold on the high street and we need to educate residents that there are viable alternatives.”

The Credit Union will now benefit from a highly visible shop frontage on a busy road with a self contained shop and office where it can help to offer a real alternative for residents to high-interest money lenders and loan sharks.

The Council’s Ellesmere Port Locality Team is supporting a local awareness campaign to highlight the dangers of illegal money lending offers.

Councillor Lynn Riley, Executive Member for Localities, said: “Illegal lenders prey on residents who often only want to borrow a small amount of cash, and high-interest loans can often spiral out of control if the first payment is missed.

“We want West Cheshire residents struggling with debt to know that there is an alternative. West Cheshire Credit Union, a non-profit making organisation, can be a lifeline to struggling residents and ploughs money straight back into the community.

“I am delighted that we have been able to help the Union secure a prominent position on Ellesmere Port’s High Street whilst bringing unused properties back into use for the benefit of the community.”

Looking to target long-term vacant shops in the old high street of Whitby Road, the grant scheme aimed to bring properties back into use, improve the appearance of the street, help increase footfall for the other shops, and support the regeneration of the wider area.

Landlords are asked to rent out their unused retail unit to local community interest groups for a two-year period, receiving a peppercorn rent and benefiting from a grant to bring the property back up to modern specifications in return.

Gary Williams, Project Manager of Access2Training&Employment, and landlord of 13 Whitby Road, said: “It is a real pleasure and honour to have the West Cheshire Credit Union taking the tenancy of 13 Whitby Road on a peppercorn rent. As a community interest company we are committed to working for the benefit of our local community, ideals that the credit union is also committed to.

“I feel that the opening of this branch on the high street will be of huge benefit to local people and give them the option of saving and borrowing from an organisation committed to serving the local community.”

Local member, Councillor Justin Madders, said: “This is excellent news for both the credit union and the high street. The easy credit and pay day lenders that proliferate the high street will no longer have it all their own way- the credit union will offer an ethical alternative now.

“We have been looking to give them a high street presence for a long time and I am delighted that we have finally got there.”

The need to improve the appearance of Whitby Road’s shops had been identified in the Ellesmere Port Development Board’s Vision and Strategic Regeneration Framework – a document setting out economic, social and physical improvements to the town over the next ten years.

Residents have also raised the issue of empty shops in the town centre via the Council’s Our Place Neighbour Action Groups.

For more information on the Council’s Empty Shop Refurbishment Scheme contact Jochem.hollestelle@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk