AWARD-winning family owned Keelham Farm Shop will open in Skipton early next year.

The store, which was to have opened on Yorkshire Day, will now open on January 15 - the anniversary of the death of the father of joint owners, Victoria and James Robertshaw.

The £4 million re-development of the former Nicholas Smith's garage on Gargrave Road will be partly funded by a £210,000 grant from the North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and has the backing of NatWest.

"The team have been working for a long time on the detailed plans for Skipton and it's fantastic finally to see the spade hit the ground, " said Victoria.

The store was originally to be an entirely new building, but late last year, the Robertshaws - whose family farm is in Cowling - were granted permission to use the original shell of the garage instead.

Preparation work on the site - including the demolition of a pair of semi-detached houses next to the garage, has been taking place for some time, but building work has now begun in earnest.

"We had hoped to have the shop open by Christmas, but it was put back until we had the final funding in place," said Victoria. "We took the decision not to rush the opening, but to focus on getting the build and landscaping finished by December - and then unveil our new shop and offering to the public in the New Year."

She added that it would also allow Skipton staff to be trained in the "Keelham way" during the busy Christmas period at the family's other shop at Thornton, Bradford.

"We've earmarked January 15 as our official opening date as it's the anniversary of the death of our dad, who passed away unexpectedly and who founded the farm shop back in the early 70s. He always felt that he had created a model which could be rolled out across he region - and it is important for us to see his legacy come to life on this day."

The Skipton store will feature a cookery school and cafe, an activity barn, fresh food, bakery, delicatessen and butchery - with meat sourced from local farmers and suppliers and the family's own farm in Cowling.

The building will take six months to complete and will feature a sedum roof and photovoltaic solar panels.

It is set to create 67 new jobs, 21 of which will be created through the expansion of the food preparation side of the business, using capital from the Business Grant Programme - funded by central government's Regional Growth Fund - and delivered by the LEP.

Over the next few months it will be sourcing new suppliers, enabling the shop to become a retail showcase of the best regional food.

Gary Smith, relationship director at NatWest, said: "I was delighted to support Keelham Farm Shop and the development of the second site. It's a great business that supports local farmers and other enterprises in the region and I wish it every success for the future."