FURNITURE charity Top Drawer can stay in Sussex Square rent free until their shop is demolished as part of plans to rejuvenate the centre.

Earlier this year, Stonham Housing Association stopped funding the Walcot based upcycle furniture store because it could no longer afford the rent.

But now that Top Drawer has become an independent not-for-profit business, Swindon Council has agreed that the project can continue to use the former church hall and shop for the next three months.

Stephen Pickering, who leads the volunteers at Top Drawer, said: “We’re very excited, but it is daunting.

“The council have worked really well with us and there’s nothing quite like Top Drawer in Swindon.

“We are also on the council’s voucher scheme.”

From Monday, Top Drawer, which sells high-quality second-hand furniture at a low-budget price, will officially go it alone, and although the charity will remain essentially the same, management hopes that it will give them more freedom and flexibility.

Stephen said: “Now we will be entirely volunteer-run and we won’t have any salaries to pay, so all the money goes straight back into the business. Top Drawer has for some time been a viable business in its own right, so we have no concerns about that. Stonham have donated their van to us too which means we can carry on very smoothly.”

They also plan to extend opening hours to 9am to 4.30pm Mondays to Fridays and 10am to 3pm on Saturdays to help reach out to more people who need them.

He said: “We used to be closed on Mondays and we came in on Tuesdays and people in the shop next door used to say we had people coming in and knocking on our door.

“We’re also opening on Saturdays too. It just means that people who have to work have more time to come in. Sometimes we’ve had people rush along at 4pm after work but we have already closed. It also gives more options to people who have families and children.”

Coun Abdul Amin (Lab, Walcot and Park North) who worked with other ward councillors to see Top Drawer continue to operate out of Sussex Square, said: “We recognise the importance of Top Drawer in Sussex Square and the benefit it provided to the local community.

“We were disappointed to learn that Stonham has withdrawn its support and funding, as a result we the ward councillors worked closely with Top Drawer to find ways to keep it open and negotiated with the council to provide the current site rent free up until demolition and also the former shop to keep their stock for a further three months.

“We believe Top Drawer is a valuable asset to the local community and I have found Patsy Moloney who runs Top Drawer very hard working and well dedicated to ensure it remains an assett to the local community as long as possible.’’ Top Drawer always needs volunteers to help run the shop and van drivers. Call 01793 536613.

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