A LEIGH-BASED food waste charity has saved a community shop and support centre near Wigan, which offered cheap food to people throughout the pandemic, from closure.

The Bryn Support Centre will reopen on August 2 following a refurbishment.

Food waste charity The Bridge At Leigh is taking over the shop, offering low-cost food and mental health services at the building in Downall Green Road.

It comes after Bryn councillor Steve Jones, who set up the store last year, announced that he would stand down, but later rescinded his resignation.

The independent councillor said the shop and a new community centre were part of his pledges to voters ahead of the election only nine weeks earlier.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that because the shop was due to close, he would have stood for re-election with a new set of pledges.

However, he changed his mind after receiving ‘hundreds’ of messages from residents asking him to stay on as their representative despite the closure.

He was also contacted by The Bridge who offered to take over the shop.

He said: “I never wanted to stop being a councillor. I wanted to restand again so I could stand on. But I think it would have been a waste of taxpayers money to do another by-election. And we’re actually not shutting down after all.

“The people of Bryn are still going to have the shop and still have me as a councillor.”

Coun Jones considered stepping down from his role around three years ago and took Wigan council to court after the local authority set up a by-election.

The court ruled in the councillor’s favour, saying that he had never resigned.

The by-election was cancelled and Coun Jones was returned to office at the next ballot last May with more than 2,000 votes – around 67 pc of the vote.

The support centre which was set up soon after the coronavirus crisis took hold has helped hundreds of people with food parcels and Christmas hampers.

The shop, which features a ‘neighbourhood food larder’, also ran toy appeals.

But it struggled to stay afloat after the last lockdown because some of its food suppliers which served the pub industry were forced to close due to Covid.

Cllr Jones said: “We were losing £100 a day through that lockdown.”

In addition to his commitments as a councillor, Coun Jones is married and has two young children – one who is 20 months’ old as well as a 7-month-old baby.

The councillor considered running the whole operation himself to keep costs down, but he feared he would be neglecting his family if he took this work on.

He also considered combining the shop with the new community centre set to open at The Diamond Club off Old Road, but this will now be run by the council.

Cllr Jones added: “Although I regret saying I was going to step down, it’s turned out to be a positive outcome.”

The Bridge at Leigh has been based at a shop in The Avenue for three years and had a community café which has been closed during the Covid pandemic.

The food waste charity also supplies food for another foodbank in Atherton.

Food services manager Catherine Roberts said the store in Bryn, which the charity supplied food for as well, served a ‘valuable purpose’ in the area.

She said: “We just didn’t want it to close. We just thought, ‘what can we do?’

“We want to help the people of Bryn the same way we help the people of Leigh.

“We’ll have low-cost food and someone doing mental health services as well.

“People can come up and pick their own food. They can pick up a low-cost healthy bag of food at a fraction of the price of supermarkets.

“It’s open to everyone. Whether it’s lack of funds or they want to save food that’s going to landfill.”

The community food shop at Bryn Support Centre will be part of the FareShare low-cost membership scheme which is free for the first year.