A PARISH council could buy a village pub and run it along with a community shop and cafe.

It's still business as usual at Stoke St Gregory's two pubs and village store, which are all up for sale.

But the council is conducting a survey of parishioners and asking if people would buy shares in the pub and/or shop or act as volunteers to run it.

The Royal Oak has been on the market since November 2016, while the owners of the Rose and Crown, marketed since 2014, have applied to convert it into a home.

The profitable Village Stores along with its four-bedroom home is also currently for sale.

Parish council chairman Nick Sloan said village pubs and shops are losing out to online and supermarket shopping.

He said ideally both pubs would remain open, but he wants "to avoid at all costs having no pubs left in a year's time".

Mr Sloan added: "One proposal is for the parish council to buy the Royal Oak, refurbish it and run it as a combined shop, cafe and pub.

"The shop and cafe would be staffed by volunteers and the pub probably by a tenant.

"Money would have to be raised through grants, fundraising and people buying shares. Preliminary indications are that people are prepared to commit with more than just time."

Council vice-chairman Graham Gleed said the initiative, which aims to "generate and encourage support in the community", was at a preliminary stage.

He added: "Like all rural villages, Stoke St Gregory is vulnerable, and the worry is it could wither on the vine.

"We don't want to sleepwalk into becoming a dormitory of Taunton with no facilities. We need to take control of our destiny."

Stephen Browning, of the Rose and Crown, is looking to sell after being hit by £900 a month business rates as the pub, in common with the industry as a whole, sees fewer customers.

"We're battling on despite crippling business rate - would you pay £900 a month just to go to work?" he said.

"We're staying open despite there not being a level playing field, with other pubs paying a lot less."

Nichola Berridge, co-owner of the Royal Oak, stressed it's business as usual, but added: "There've been no interested buyers.

"The council has come up with a good idea and there's an enthusiastic group of organisers in the village.

"I hope they're successful because I don't want to see the demise of a pub I've put 12 years' dedicated hard work into."

Village Stores owner Ian Upshall, who is confident of finding a buyer, said: "That's our only plan at the moment.

"We appreciate the interest of the parish council in the business - they clearly have regard for ensuring the community is serviced with various amenities.

"We support their interest, but our intention is still to sell a profitable business as a going concern."