Residents of West Midlands towns and villages are fighting back against the domination of supermarkets by forming their own resident-owned stores.

On the 60th anniversary of the opening of the UK's first supermarket - the Cooperative in East London - village shops are under more pressure than ever as people choose to travel to out-of-town superstores instead.

But villagers in rural parts of the West Midlands are now launching their own co-operatives, as the traditional village stores, like local post offices, struggle to keep their heads above water.

Residents in villages like Yarpole, in Herefordshire; Cleeve Prior, in Worcestershire; and Long Marston in Warwickshire have all set up resident-owned village shops in the last couple of years.

And the Village Retail Services Association (Virsa) said the idea is becoming a popular way to cope with the loss of unviable local stores.

"I think the problem probably is the supermarkets," said a Virsa spokeswoman. "Rural people are much more reliant on their cars and are more likely to go to large supermarkets.

"And there are more commuters in villages now, so people are commuting to work, which is taking them away from the village shop. Time and time again we are hearing how these resident-owned shops are putting the heart back into a rural community."

There are a wide variety of local-owned shops, from holes-in-the-wall staffed by volunteers, to permanent shops with cafe and computer facilities.

There are a number of different possible sources of funding, from donations to local council funding, to grants from groups like Virsa.

Barry Cleverdon, who is former chief executive of the NEC Group, helped set up a resident-owned shop in his home village of Claverdon, Warwickshire.

In his case, the shop is owned and run by a group of more than 100 local "board members", who pay a one-off subscription to become part-owners of the shop, and make decisions about how it is run. It also got funding from the village's parish council.

He said: "A lot of it is just about having somewhere to walk to, that's an often-overlooked part of what the village shop means to the community."

A spokesman for the Forum of Private Business said: "If people are drawn out of villages to shopping at these big out-of-town supermarkets it has a devastating impact, especially on the smaller businesses in villages.

"It's just so much easier to shop at a supermarket. But what we can't ignore is that these shops are often the heart and soul of a community.

"Unfortunately, people move to villages for the quality of life they offer, and yet conversely, for the sake of convenience and price, people living in small villages are actually helping to destroy the economic viability of their local shops by to shopping at out-of-town sites."

* To speak to Virsa for advice or to apply for funding through the Village Core Programme, contact 01993 814377 or log on to ..SUPL: