Post office set to close down

A RURAL post office and village shop in Essex is to close down after the owners claim a new traffic scheme outside has hit takings by £30,000 in the last year.

A RURAL post office and village shop in Essex is to close down after the owners claim a new traffic scheme outside has hit takings by £30,000 in the last year.

Valerie and Roger Robson have put their shop in Frating up for sale - and if no buyer for the post office is found before the end of April it will close down for good.

Mrs Robson claimed the couple's takings have fallen since traffic lights were installed on the crossroads outside and car parking was reduced this time last year.

She said half the passing trade, which the shop relied on, was eliminated because there were no longer enough car parking spaces.

"Before they started the roadworks we were up 10% on the previous year. We'd managed to put the post office salary (income) up over the years and carried on getting the shop takings above inflation," said Mrs Robson.

"We lost £13,000 in takings in the 13 weeks they took to put in the traffic lights and they never went back up again," she added.

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Other factors have also influenced the couple's decision, including the proximity of a large out-of-town Tesco and people buying cigarettes and tobacco abroad to avoid high taxes in the UK.

Mrs Robson said the Government's decision to pay pensions and benefits into bank accounts will see the post office side of the business shrink. The Government has guaranteed a minimum income of £5,800 for the post office over the next three years – which is less than it gets now.

She warned other rural post offices will be hit as their incomes fall over the next three years.

Meanwhile, Frating looks set to lose its only general stores and post office, leaving the village facilities depleted to just a pub and a village hall. The nearest post office will be in nearby Elmstead Market or Great Bromley.

"Some of the elderly people are very upset we are going and it's hard because you don't want to let them down, but on the other hand you risk going bankrupt," said Mrs Robson.

The couple came to the shop seven years ago, after Mr Robson was made redundant from Marconi, in Chelmsford. Mrs Robson said her husband will try to find work similar to that, while she will return to teaching.

Frating Parish Council chairman Gay Culley said: "I'm very sad that the business is going."

A spokeswoman from Essex County Council said the traffic lights were installed by Essex County Council at the crossroads of the A133 and B1029 at the request of Frating Parish Council as an accident reduction measure.

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