SHOCKED residents fear their community is being left high and dry after it was announced the post office and shop taken over just six weeks ago will close this weekend.

The news came amid claims of a high rent for the Post Office and shop in Romanby, near Northallerton. It is understood the premises are owned by a private landlord.

A distressed resident, who asked not to be named, told the Darlington and Stockton Times: "The service it offered was doubly precious because it took over the Post Office services from the local shop and Post Office after the existing postmaster retired.

"This is awful, to lose these local services at a time when life has rarely been lonelier or harder, especially for the elderly. One of the very things that makes Romanby work so well as a community is that we still have relatively easy, walkable access to essential services such as groceries, health care and post office services, making it viable for the elderly and less mobile to stay in their homes and still enjoy a degree of autonomy and independence.

"We understand that the reason for the current sub-lessee, who took over at the end of March, having to give up his venture only a few weeks after he opened is simply down to the high rent charged.

"Romanby has got a large, elderly population, many of whom live close enough to easily access it daily, pick up a paper and exchange some pleasantries and gossip with the staff. They might not speak to anyone else their entire day and this contact and independence is important both to them and to us as a community. I don't want to pillory the landlord. I simply want to start a conversation about this."

The Post Office confirmed Romanby is closing. A spokesperson said: "The Postmaster for Romanby has recently resigned. The shop and Post Office will be closing this Sunday.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused by Romanby Post Office closing at short notice. We are looking to see how Post Office services can be restored to the area as soon as possible. Alternative branches in the area include Northallerton and Appleton Wiske."

The Post Office and shop reopened on March 27 after previously being run by the Co-op and McColls. At that time the Post Office revealed in a press release it was re-opening under new management, "safeguarding the service to the community".

They added: "Deniz Atay, who is an experienced retailer in London, has moved to North Yorkshire for this business opportunity. This will be his first Post Office, but the existing experienced staff will continue to work at the branch."

Mr Atay, said: "The community is really pleased that this Post Office and convenience store will remain open and they are looking forward to the range of Co-op goods that will be on offer at this Nisa Local."

The store did not respond to requests for a comment.