VILLAGERS have joined forces to safeguard the future of their only local shop and post office by taking it over themselves.

Residents in Huby and Sutton-on-the-Forest, on the outskirts of York, have formed a Community Benefit Society, and are now looking to raise £40,000 to buy Huby Village Shop.

The shop has been owned and run by husband and wife duo David and Lesley Barker for more than 26 years. The couple were looking to sell the business ahead of retirement plans last year. However when Mrs Barker died last summer, Mr Barker had to reduce opening hours in order to keep the shop running on his own.

He said: “After Lesley passed away, I struggled on initially. Then thankfully some volunteers came forward to help me out.

“That has developed into what will hopefully become a very successful community-based shop, which is what Lesley alway wanted the business to become. The people that have come forward out of the woodwork have been amazing. I’m so grateful for what the community have done for me.

“It’s bitter-sweet for me, but I’m hopeful Lesley is looking down saying well done, and that the shop will be here for years to come.”

The Community Benefit Society is seeking to raise funds to buy the shop through a community shares and bonds prospectus, and is calling on residents to buy a £20 stake.

Chairman of the group, Denise Howard, who lives in Huby said: “We can’t imagine Huby without our village shop and post office. A small steering group has worked hard since the beginning of February to create a viable business plan and community share proposal.

“This is a great opportunity for local people in Huby and Sutton to take ownership of the shop and post office and influence its day-to-day running and future and we need every adult over 16 to buy a £20 share.

“We have taken inspiration locally from Stillington Stores and Post Office, which has been community owned for more than 11 years. We owe a huge thanks to Stillington and their chairman, Andrew Harrison, who has provided a wealth of information, advice and experience.”

More than 40 volunteers have registered to work in the shop and a volunteer recruitment, induction and training plan is being put in place ready for May’s handover.