IT HAS been unused and empty since 2017, but a former supermarket in Shaftesbury is no longer on the market.

Purchased during an upbeat online auction for more than £650,000, what was once a Co-operative store, a Budgens and a Somerfield on Bell Street now belongs to Richard Whittemore, of family business Elite Garages.

While future plans for the site are not yet finalised, a convenience store and servicing garage is one potential vision expressed by the Elite Garages team, as well as using part of the space for other retail units.

“The key thing is we want to work with the local community, we have reached out to people already to hear what they want to happen here,” said Richard.

With the online auction expected to finish at 3pm on February 10, last minute bidders caused the event to continue for a further two hours, as three participants fought for the final prize.

With an initial guide price of between £580,000 and £620,000, the Whittemores secured the site for £656,000.

Describing the auction as “really exciting but challenging”, Richard’s daughter Kelsie, who represents the third generation in the family business, said: “Nothing is set in stone, we’re discussing options for the site, but our original thoughts are part of the site could be a convenience store. It’s been one before and is needed.”

Richard and Kelsie Whittemore at Elite Garages, Maidstone

Richard and Kelsie Whittemore at Elite Garages, Maidstone

With the nearest branch in Salisbury, Richard said the business had been aware of the vacant building in the heart of Shaftesbury, and he “saw the potential and really liked the area”.

He said a workshop space would “serve the local community”.

According to Richard there has been “positive feedback” since he sealed the deal last week, adding: “People are excited we are bringing employment and new opportunities to the area.”

When asked for his thoughts on the price of the site, Richard said: “We had our figures and we paid what we did, we’re very pleased with the prospect and moving it forward to create something for the community.”

With internal work set to begin soon, Richard said it could take up to nine months for the new outlet to open.

SOLD: Bell Street site up for auction - Picture from Clive Emson Auctioneers

SOLD: Bell Street site up for auction - Picture from Clive Emson Auctioneers

Welcoming the news, mayor of Shaftesbury Andy Hollingshead said: “I’m delighted that the building has now been bought by a family firm who know the area.

“Having met the new owners I am confident that they will be listening closely to what the people of Shaftesbury would like to see on the site. While the council has views on what would be suitable it is now owned by a private company who will need to make the commercial decisions.

"The council looks forward to working with the new owners, particularly on a site as important as this.”