Community anger at post office closures

GALLERY Devastated communities and branch post offices are still coming to terms with the confirmation that all those earmarked for closure in west Suffolk would be axed.

Will Clarke

DEVASTATED communities and branch post offices were yesterday still coming to terms with the confirmation that all those earmarked for closure in west Suffolk would be axed.

The EADT spoke to those affected by the 14 closures - as well as two where scaled down outreach facilities will be provided - to gauge the full impact of the latest cull.

1. Barton Mills:

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Pamela Boura , sub-postmistress at Barton Mills Post Office, said: “We have had a long time to get used to it as we knew 18 months ago that our branch didn't fit the criteria.

“But it is still very sad for the community to lose an important village facility which is well used by residents and surrounding villages who over the years have lost their own post offices. Many people protested for it to remain but ultimately that was unsuccessful.”

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2. Chalkstone:

Gordon Cox, Suffolk County Council member for Haverhill, said: “This is very disappointing because this is a very well used post office. I think they are making a big mistake.”

3. Cowlinge:

Pamela Bowers, the sub-postmistress for nearly 30 years, told the EADT: “We were very busy when we first started but over the years I have noticed a drop in trade and sadly it just shows how things change. I have been here for almost 30 years and it will be very sad for me personally when I close for the final time.”

4/5. Crown Street and Combs Ford branches, Stowmarket:

Town mayor Anne Whybrow said the community was devastated by news that they would lose two post offices after a huge campaign to save them.

Mrs Whybrow, who dressed up as Postman Pat during a recent protest rally, said: “There is pure devastation. It just appears there has been blanket closures and no-one has listened.

“So many people are in tears and residents are grief stricken. The post offices are little communities and we are closing them.”

Rosie Carter, a Stowmarket resident who helped lead the campaign to try and save the Crown Street branch, said: “It's devastating and now our shock is turning to anger. The Post Office consultation was a total sham and we will now be considering a judicial review. I am feeling devastated and it's very hard to know how the postmasters and mistresses are feeling.”

John Matthissen, a Great Finborough resident and mid Suffolk district councillor who helped lead the fight to save Combs Ford branch, said: “This is mind blowing stupidity and hits hardest the most vulnerable sections of the community. Residents are upset and angry. People will struggle now.”

6. Exning Road, Newmarket:

Warwick Hirst, a Newmarket town Council member, said it would be tough for people to get to the main post office in Newmarket.

“With petrol prices rising they are asking us to drive or take a bus or take a long walk. It is stupid decision there is no logic locally,” he said.

7. Fornham All Saints:

Trevor Whitehouse, who runs the post office in the village with his wife and daughter along with one at Glastonbury Court, Bury St Edmunds, said the decision was the “saddest day” they have experienced since starting the business.

In a family statement, they said: “We are devastated and disappointed. It is especially sad when you consider the business has continued to grow every week.

“We want to thank everyone who fought so hard to try and keep the branch open - they have become friends rather than customers. It is a very sad day for the entire village.”

8. Gislingham:

Geoff Laurence, who has served the village as postmaster for 20 years, said that there has been a post office in community since 1841 and people would be “absolutely devastated” by its closure.

In his community there are plans to offer an outreach service, and proposals to run a further six weeks consultation as nowhere has been found to run one.

9. Great Ashfield:

Sub-postmistress Sylvia Hurrell said it would be a blow to the village and an end to two generations of family tradition.

“The village will be sad to see the post office go,” she said.

10. Honington:

Sean Traynor, who took the post office into his pub - The Fox - to keep the service alive said he was concerned about the impact on the village.

He said: “This has caused a lot of distress and disappointment but I think the way these measures have been introduced have allowed people to prepare for the worst.”

11. Horringer:

Peta Cook, parish council chairman, said: “We are all very upset as we felt we had put together a strong case. Every resident I have spoken to is saddened but also very worried especially in light of the fuel crisis. How can they be expected to use other post offices when they already can't afford to put fuel in their car?”

John Dekker, sub-postmaster, paid tribute to the “tremendous” support he had received from customers but said he was gutted about the decision.

“My honest opinion was that we had a 50/50 chance of getting a reprieve,” he said. “The post office is purpose built and we run at a profit but in the end it wasn't enough.”

12. Old Newton:

Sarah Stringer, mid Suffolk district councillor for the village, said: “My heart goes out to all those dedicated villagers involved in the fight against closure.

“All their hard work has been totally ignored. It appears that the Post Office's mind was made up before the consultation started.

“This is a hostile attack on rural life. How are the residents of Old Newton going to access the service now? A bus journey to Stowmarket and back will take nearly three hours.”

Melvyn Barnes, a villager who led the campaign on behalf of the parish council and the community council in Old Newton, said: “We are devastated. We did everything required of us and played it by the book. We assumed that the consultation was genuine, but now we're not so sure.”

13. Risby:

Rebecca Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council representative for Risby, said the closure of the post office had been a blow for retired villagers.

“It is a great shame,” she said. “People are very disappointed but they had expected it because the post office needed a lot of investment to make it into a viable business.”

14. Wattisfield:

Di Beaumont, who lives in the village, said: “A lot of people use our post office to get their pension. It also helps hold the village together.”

15. Wattisham Airfield:

Soldiers will also receive an outreach facility and personnel were not unduly concerned by the change yesterday.

A spokesman for the airfield said: “We are pleased that the branch will remain open, albeit with reduced hours from five days to three mornings. We believe this will provide a satisfactory level of service for our servicemen and women and their dependants.”

16. Whepstead:

Shirley McGown, landlady at the nearby Whitehorse pub, said: “They had made provision to keep a post office in the village when they built the community centre. I don't know how rural communities are meant to survive without services. Some people rely on that post office.”

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