Book shop opens community hub

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A controversial book shop that gives away its stock, rather than sells it, will unveil its brand new community initiative this week.

The Healthy Planet book shop in the former TJ Hughes site at Preston’s Fishergate Centre is already home to Books for Free, and the new community concept to see multiple partners from other charities, social enterprises and local groups is hoping to revitalise local life.

Healthy Planet founder Shaylesh Patel said: “We’re piloting this concept as a way of bringing life back to the high street.

“When the high street empties it diminishes the community, so what we’re doing is creating a new kind of hub- one where people can seek help and advice as well as discover things like crafts and upcycled furniture.”

The soft-launch of the new community hub comes less than a month after the Book Clearance Centre, one of the longest-serving businesses in the Fishergate Centre, announced it was closing after 23 years because it could not compete with the shop.

Shaylesh added: “The new community hub will open to the public for the first time on March 22 at 11am.

“The aim is that over time more partners and organisations will join in the hub, bringing more variety to this already exciting new phenomenon unfolding in Preston city centre.

“This is very much a locally led initiative with the hearts and minds of the community at its core”.

Partners already confirmed to join the project range from craft groups to organisations such as The Challenge, who support young people; Preston United, who provide training skills for NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training), and the Lancashire NHS.