Fate of village shop in doubt

ALCONBURY is set to lose its village shop, but the Post Office it includes will be reprieved - at least for the time being. Nationally, 2,500 smaller offices are to close over the next 18 months, but none of them has yet been identified. At least theoreti

ALCONBURY is set to lose its village shop, but the Post Office it includes will be reprieved - at least for the time being.

Nationally, 2,500 smaller offices are to close over the next 18 months, but none of them has yet been identified. At least theoretically, Alconbury's and those in other Huntingdonshire villages could face the axe in the Post Office's bid to cut costs.

Karsons, the general store in Alconbury, which has been in business since 1980, is set to scale down its activities later this month. If a planning application is approved, it could be replaced by a house and a smaller shop.

Owner Thakorebhai (TK) Mistry, 61, told The Hunts Post: "My brother and sister-in-law are no longer able to work in the shop and I will not be able to run it on my own."

He has sent out a notice to his customers that he will no longer stock or deliver newspapers from the end of May.

However, Mr Mistry, who is also an industrial chemist and was awarded the MBE two years ago, said he would keep the post office open so that his customers could continue to collect their pensions.

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He has put in an application for planning permission to build a house and a smaller shop on the site. "I might be able to go back to stocking newspapers," he said. "I will see how it goes."

Mr Mistry and his wife, Jaya, opened the shop on May 1, 1980, and said the community has been very kind to them.

He added: "I feel guilty about letting the community down but I don't feel I have any choice. If I get planning permission, I will be able to open a new shop."

On Thursday, in a statement to the Commons, Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said supporting the current number of post offices was not sustainable. It is understood that there have been losses of more than £200million a year because fewer people are using them.

By spring 2009, the post office network could be reduced to 11,800 post offices. Huntingdon MP, Jonathan Djanogly, whose home is near Mr Mistry's shop, said: "If 2,000 post offices close this year, why shouldn't another 2,000 close next year? I am very concerned about the damaging effect closures would have on community life." Shailesh Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, added: "The Secretary of State seems to be indicating that only the very remote areas of rural England will see their services saved. Everybody else will have to make do with a 'reasonable' service, which effectively means a poor service.

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