MORE than one hundred people packed South Wonston village hall to hear more about the idea of a community-run shop and post office.

Current owners Ron and Sue Chamberlain want to retire and sell-up but have been unable to find a buyer for the Downs Road premises which has been on the market for several years.

To save the only shop in the village, they suggested it could be run as a community-owned store. At present, there are 11 in Hampshire, including one in Sparsholt.

The proposal was top of the agenda at the recent annual parish assembly chaired by Peter Fox, chairman of South Wonston Parish Council.

Speakers Anne Harrison, market town manager from Hampshire County Council and Helen Melia, from the Plunkett Foundation, talked about existing community-run stores and what was involved in setting one up.

Villagers heard this might include starting a limited company, employing a part-time or full-time manager and organising a rota of volunteer shop assistants.

One option is to sell shares to raise the cash to buy premises.

South Wonston Stores and attached 5-bedroom house has a price tag of £550,000 but the shop on its own is on the market for £200,000. It is also available for lease.

Now the parish council has set up a working party of three councillors to decide on the next step, including vice-chairman June Perrins, Therese Godfrey and David Selby.

Mr Selby said it was “fantastically important” the village shop and post office remained open.

He said: “The elderly population of the village is increasing and quite a considerable number rely on it for their day-to-day requirements, a surprising number don’t drive, especially older ladies.

“It is to also to some extent the centre of village life. Ron and Sue have done a tremendous amount for the social life of the village, advertising what is going on and selling cinema tickets.

He added: “I think from the interest shown people are concerned that shop and the post office in particular continue to function.

“The test is how much support there is in terms of volunteers coming forward.”

Mr Chamberlain said: “I was encouraged by the number who turned up to the meeting. We plan to retire in South Wonston and want to go to the village shop, so we don’t want it to close.”