THE owners of a threatened Weymouth store that helps struggling families and the homeless are celebrating after they were given permission to stay open.

Bargain Brand Food Outlet in Lynch Lane was granted planning permission to continue trading as a retail store after a huge public campaign.

The popular store, now owned and managed by Colin and Tracy Williams, sells branded products at cheap prices for the local community and helps to feed the homeless through the charity Soul Food.

The unit was previously a garage and was turned into a store without change of use permission, which was subsequently refused by West Dorset District Council which cited loss of employment land.

The operators had a chance of survival if they could convince the authority the shop was of community value.

More than 100 letters of support were sent and Mr Williams told the Echo that in a meeting with the council, officers admitted that due to the huge public support the shop had it would have been hard for them to turn down the application.

The council attached a number of conditions when granting permission.

Mr Williams spoke of his gratitude for the support he and the shop received during the process.

Mr Williams said: “I have been overwhelmed by the support from the public.

“Every day they have been coming in to the shop saying they wanted us to stay open, and since the permission was granted we have had a lot of congratulatory emails.

“The community are really getting behind us, a lot of people sent letters to the council so they are the ones really that saved the shop.”

Mr Williams added: “We are absolutely delighted. It’s a big weight off our shoulders and it means we can now concentrate on the shop rather than worrying about the process.

“We can move the shop on now and focus on it becoming a real benefit to Weymouth.”

Under the conditions of the planning permission, the store, which is now managed by just Colin and Tracy, will only be able to sell ambient food unless they gain further agreement from the council. The shop will only be able to open from 9.30am-2pm Tuesday to Saturday.

Mr Williams added: “The terms are restricted in terms of what we can sell but that’s fine because we don’t want to sell cigarettes and alcohol, and the times are restricted but that’s ok as well because we want to run the shop around the school run.

“The council has given us everything that we asked for.”

Angie Barnes, volunteer outreach worker at homeless charity Soul Food, said: “Soul Food is really grateful to Bargain Brand and are so please that Colin has succeeded in keeping the shop open.”

THE council’s Assistant Economic Regeneration Officer Lloyd Savage was consulted on the change of use and said he supported the application, saying it was employing more people now than it did when it was a garage.

He added: “In addition the business is employing a member of staff with additional needs on a voluntary basis and also engaging in a programme for those who are jobless and looking to get back to work.

“I am also advised, that following the launch of this business, the dependence of those in greatest need on local food banks has diminished, and the business therefore provides an important local community benefit.

“I have conducted a search on alternative property in the area, but have not been able to identify other available premises that would meet the needs of the applicant.”