VILLAGERS are fighting plans to strip the post office from the country's oldest shop.

Under proposals to axe 24 East Lancashire outlets, Chipping's post office is to be downgraded.

Bosses want to take the post office out of the village store in Talbot Street and house a mobile replacement in the village hall for just eight hours a week.

At present the post office is open 25 hours a week.

Ribble Valley Council lists Chipping Village Store as the longest continually trading shop in the UK, having been established in 1668 by local wool merchant John Brabin.

The Lancashire Teleg-raph is also running a campaign to save the threatened village post offices.

So far around 500 people have signed our petition.

Calls to keep Chipping post office in its current location were boosted by a visit from The Arch- deacon of Blackburn, the Venerable John Hawley and Tim Horobin, rural officer for the diocese.

Graham Wilkinson, chairman of Chipping Parish Council, said: "At a public meeting with three post office executives we got more than 200 people to the village hall.

"However, a letter was read out at the meeting from the village hall trustees which said they would not be willing to accommodate a remote service there.

"People are wondering what's wrong with the current location.

"Visitors come to this village from far and wide and they like to have a browse round the shop and it would be tragic if we lost it.

"The post office people have no knowledge of our community and that's a worry."

Mr Wilkinson claimed if an alternative could not be found, the nearest post office was five miles away in Longridge.

"It can be up to two hours between bus serv-ices to Longridge and even then they can be unreliable," he said.

"That's too much for people to worry about when they just want to pick up their pension," he added.