A new online resource has been created to provide a how-to guide for villages looking to set up a community-owned store.

The Community Shops Network website provides essential information and support on legal and financial issues that affect such ventures.

The network will also offer the latest news on funding and support programmes available for community-owned shops, as well as information on installing a post office in a store, a directory of shops in the UK, and case studies of previous successful launches.

So far 150 local project teams have signed up to the network, which launched earlier this month. The site, www.plunkett.uk.net, will be run by rural community support network the Plunkett Foundation, a charity that aims to improve rural livelihoods through co-operation and social enterprise.

The launch coincides with a storyline in BBC Radio 4's long-running series The Archers, in which a shop committee in the fictional village of Ambridge turns to the Plunkett Foundation for funding through the Village CORE programme. Ambridge residents are also keen to stock a wide range of local produce in their store to attract more customers and develop close links with local suppliers.

Plunkett Foundation chief executive Peter Crouchman spoke of the importance of helping shops which are owned by their customers thrive: "We are extremely proud to have developed the first-ever online network dedicated to community-owned shops which we hope will provide an invaluable service," he said.

"We believe that rural communities have the right to try and set up their own shops when they are threatened with closure. The network will help rural communities to learn from and support each other."