THE future of the Post Office in a rural Ribble Valley village is hanging in the balance after the fate of its building was thrown into fresh doubt.

Downham, which has been owned by the Assheton family since 1558, has been without a Post Office since the building in Twiston Lane shut its doors just before Christmas last year.

Now doubts have been raised as to whether it will reopen at all after a ‘change of use’ application was submitted to the borough council.

The village owners are seeking to transform the building into en suite letting bedrooms.

The application, which is being handled by agents Clitheroe-based Sunderland Peacock and Associates Ltd, is set to be discussed by the council in the coming months.

In February more than 40 residents attended a public meeting to discuss the future of the business.

Ideas were put forward including running a community post office from somebody’s front room or taking over the old business as a village. The possibility of asking the Post Office to set up an outpost in the village once a week selling stamps and insurance was also discussed.

No final decision was reached at the meeting in the village hall.

Borough councillor Gary Scott, who represents the village, said: “I was not aware of the application. I think that the details of the plan need to be confirmed and I need to look at the application in full.

“I think that whatever happens there will still be a postal service in Downham in some form in the future.

“I knew that something would happen with the building.”

An application has also been submitted to convert the nearby Ash Cottage into ensuite letting bedrooms.

No-one from the Assheton family was available for comment.

The family does not allow overhead electricity lines, aerials or satellite dishes, making the village a popular location for filming period dramas.

It was used in the 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind and the 2012 BBC drama The Secret Of Crickley Hall was also filmed in the area.