Seaside donkeys are to replace the popular shopper shuttle service in Sutton town centre.

The shopper shuttle - a free buggy service that drives people up and down the High Street - has proved popular since it was introduced last year.

Sutton Guardian:

These shuttles will be replaced by donkeys

But the buggies are to be replaced by a group of donkeys after Successful Sutton struck up a deal with Weston-Super-Mare Council to give its group of newly redundant beach donkeys a new home.

The group of seven donkeys, named Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy and Sneezy after the seven dwarves, have carried children along the beach at the seaside town for the last four years.

However, a sharp decline in the popularity of beach donkeys means the group, along with many others in the UK, have found themselves in the donkey dole queue.

When donkey enthusiast Ross Feeney, chief executive of Successful Sutton, read about the animals' plight he decided he had to act.

He said: "I just couldn't bear to think about these poor animals, with their raison d'etre just taken away like that. Then it occurred to me that I could help so I contacted the council and struck up a deal.

"Now the donkeys will be available free of charge to help people get up and down the High Street, which is pretty steep.

"We will be encouraging people to donate food for them, we hear they are partial to carrots and turnips - although we ask that people refrain from feeding them candy floss as this was becoming a bit of a problem in Weston-Super-Mare."

Flora Pilo, chief executive of the Donkey and Ass Freedom Trust, said: "I was delighted when I heard about this deal between Sutton and Weston-Super-Mare. Too many beach front donkeys are being deprived of their reason to live and coming down with donkey depression.

Sutton Guardian: RIDES: Melanie Rush with the beach donkeys

Dopey and Doc in Weston-Super-Mare before they were made redundant

"Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh made donkey depression into a joke, but I can assure you it is not.

"Thankfully these seven young donkeys have been saved."

The donkeys have already been used in trial runs up and down the High Street over the weekend run and Mr Feeney said they handled the change in terrain well.

They will be available to shoppers from midday today.