Fury as Tesco axes post office

By James HoreSUPERMARKET giant Tesco has left residents fuming after it was revealed a planned revamp of one of its shops would result in the closure of a vital in-store post office.

By James Hore

SUPERMARKET giant Tesco has left residents fuming after it was revealed a planned revamp of one of its shops would result in the closure of a vital in-store post office.

Tesco is set to convert a One Stop convenience store in Broomfield Parade, Chelmsford, into one of its Express stores.

But it sparked fury after announcing there would no longer be room for the post office counter in the shop due to “constraints on space” and it will be withdrawn at the end of August.

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It comes just days after the East Anglian Daily Times revealed parish councils across north Essex were to hold a special meeting to deal with the impact that Tesco has had on small villages.

Chelmsford has already lost several urban post offices in Post Office's network reinvention scheme, leaving many people facing a long walk to the nearest branch.

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Although the Post Office said it was actively looking to solve the problem, it was criticised by independent consumer group Postwatch, which claimed not enough was being done to reassure customers about the future.

Tom Smith-Hughes, a Chelmsford borough and Essex county councillor, called on the Post Office and Tesco to honour pledges to find a new site for the Broomfield Parade counter or risk losing trust among residents.

He added: “There is a lot of anger because when two other nearby post offices were closed two years ago, this was the alternative which was offered by the Post Office.

“I feel it is the responsibility of the Post Office and Tesco to find another one - we have more than 1,000 signatures calling on them to retain the post office locally.”

Mr Smith-Hughes warned even if there was a temporary closure while an alternative site was found, it would be hard for a new sub-postmaster to recover customers if they went elsewhere.

“Tesco say people have said they would welcome a wider range of services and we are not denying that, but people would rather have a post office and the present situation,” he said.

“If, despite what they have said, they decide to close the post office their words would become empty promises which will be thrown back in their face and they will be seen as having closed the post office. “

Charles Winstanley, chairman of Postwatch East, added: “It is not enough to say that 'discussions are ongoing'. The 2,500 urban post office closures over the past two years were supposed to put in place a stable urban network.

“Post Office Ltd should therefore be going out of its way to reassure customers that it is doing everything it can to now keep in place a stable urban network.

“The loss of the post office would be a blow to local businesses and domestic customers alike.”

A spokesman for the Post Office said: “We are actively seeking a replacement and as soon as we have achieved provision we will make an announcement.

“We have gone out of the way to keep people informed and we are looking at several options at the moment as we have to secure the long-term future for the post office in the area.”

No-one from Tesco, which took over One Stop shops in 2003 when it purchased the T&S chain of stores, was available for comment yesterday.

But in a letter to Mr Smith-Hughes, the company said: “Tesco knows that the post office counter is important to the local community, which is why we are actively searching for a new site and offering substantial financial and logistical support to appropriate interested parties.”


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