THE closure of a charity shop has been a shock for the people of Westbury.

The Wiltshire Air Ambulance store on Maristow Street will close later this year, after the charity announced it is no longer making enough money.

The shop was opened by the late Dot Whitehead, who ran it independently from 1998 until her death in 2012, aged 81, at which point WAA took over.

The Times spoke to people on Westbury High Street to find out their views on the closure of the shop.

Peter Davidson of South Street in Warminster, has branded it a disgrace from a charity which is consistently shown support.

He said: “I come here once, sometimes twice, a week. There are a dozen charity shops in the area but they are a better shop with more lovely staff here as they put in so much effort. What am I going to do without this shop? I’m a great believer in the air ambulance because they saved my grandmother Jenny’s life. Head office should have a rethink because it’s a disgrace. I’m devastated and I can’t believe they would do it. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.”

Adam Watkin, of Windsor Drive, Westbury: “It’s a community experience and one of the friendliest charity shops. Poor families in Westbury rely on this. It’s not just a charity shop for Wiltshire Air Ambulance but for people. It provides a social need so it will be a sad thing when it’s gone.

“It is competitive pricing in a lovely building. Dorothy House and places like that are a corporation so they charge more money. So families need to take advantage of that, and people come in for a chat.”

The chief executive of WAA, David Philpott, said: “It has been a very difficult decision for the Board to make. Especially as the shop has been raising funds for our charity since 1998.
 “We understand it will be a disappointment for the people of Westbury and the many volunteers who have served there over the years, raising lots of funds for the charity.
“We’d like to thank everyone who has supported the shop since it opened, and we hope they will continue to come out to support it between now and the closing date in June.”

Richard and Sonia Smith of Westbury Leigh were sad to hear it would be closing. Sonia said: “It’s a shame as it’s a way of them raising money and a popular place. For those who rely on it I think it’s sad any of the shops close, so any closure is bad.”

Richard thinks it is down to the rent being put up, he said: “The rents must change as they appear to be high. So, by putting higher rates they are losing businesses who can’t afford to make a profit from what they’re selling. I didn’t find the shop for quite a while, but I’m surprised as any shop closing will have an impact on the town.”

After three decades of the store being open, it will be a huge loss for customers.

Sally Keyse, of Avenue, has used the shop many times, and said: “I’m surprised as they don’t charge as much as the other shops. You would think people wouldn’t want to replace it. I’ve been using the shop for 35 years so it’s terrible and a big loss for us.”

Virginia Aldridge, who lives on the Leigh Park estate, told the Times feels it is the best of the charity shops and people will miss it.

“I’m shocked it’s closing. I don’t know if we can do anything. But it is a big shame for local people,” said Romana Platkowska, from Trowbridge.

Westbury Town Councillor Deborah Urch, said: “We were surprised and saddened to hear the Air Ambulance charity shop will close in June after operating in Westbury since 1998.

“We regularly hear feedback from residents that there are not enough retail outlets, or a diverse selection of shops and many local people will be disappointed in the loss of yet another shop in their town. The Air Ambulance charity shop is in an enviable position in the town centre and we hope the landlord will use this opportunity to encourage occupation of the vacant space with a shop that is both sympathetic to the needs of the town and its residents.”

Wiltshire Air Ambulance has no plans to open further shops. It will be business as usual at its Devizes shop, in Maryport Street.