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St Olaves post office in Bury St Edmunds closed suddenly and put on the market

PUBLISHED: 17:48 28 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:51 01 March 2017

The former St Olaves post office in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: MATT REASON

The former St Olaves post office in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: MATT REASON

Archant

Another community is ruing the loss of its post office after a landlord ejected the business suddenly.

A map showing some of the changes to Suffolk post offices in 2016 and 2017.A map showing some of the changes to Suffolk post offices in 2016 and 2017.

The St Olaves precinct post office in Bury St Edmunds was forced to close on Monday afternoon, adding to a list branch closures and changes across Suffolk in the past year.

A Post Office spokeswoman has confirmed they were asked to leave the St Olaves building by the landlord.

The 683 sqft space is now on the market for £13,000 rent per year.

“What everyone is concerned about is what on earth has happened,” said the area’s borough councillor Paul Hopfensperger.

“On Friday people went in there and the girls said ‘it’s closing on Monday’. There’s been no consultation and no idea as to what’s happened.”

He described the building as a “central hub in the community for residents”.

Vairavanathan Prabaharan with the mobile Post Office at Lavenham Village Hall after the Post Office in the pharmacy closed in June 2016. Picture: PHIL MORLEYVairavanathan Prabaharan with the mobile Post Office at Lavenham Village Hall after the Post Office in the pharmacy closed in June 2016. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

A Post Office spokeswoman described it as a “temporary closure” but said it was “unplanned”.

She said: “At very short notice, the premises are being withdrawn for Post Office. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

“We are working hard to restore Post Office services to St Olaves as quickly as possible.”

“It’s like a social gathering”

The move comes as a bitter disappointment for Ernie Broom, chairman of the Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants (HEART).

“The post office isn’t just a post office, it’s part of the estate,” he said.

Lavenham's post office in 2012 when it moved into the pharmacy. Picture: TUDOR MORGAN-OWENLavenham's post office in 2012 when it moved into the pharmacy. Picture: TUDOR MORGAN-OWEN

“When people go there to get their money, pension or pay the electric it’s like a social outing for some people. It’s like a social gathering when you have nice, friendly staff there.

“Also, when they get their money they go and spend it in the local shops.”

Mr Broom described the three staff members as having done “a brilliant job” at the post office.

The company says it is already looking for a “permanent solution” to bring back a post office to the precinct but there is no news yet where this could be situated.

The nearest two other post offices are in the town centre, in Cornhill, and the Lake Avenue Post Office, at South Parade.

Another temporary post office closure in Suffolk

Lavenham's post office in 2012 when it moved into the pharmacy. Picture: TUDOR MORGAN-OWENLavenham's post office in 2012 when it moved into the pharmacy. Picture: TUDOR MORGAN-OWEN

Across Suffolk, a range of other post offices have closed temporarily in recent times.

They include Higham, Rickinghall, Alderton and Lavenham.

The Post Office also recently began disposing of a number of its ‘crown’ post office buildings, including Sudbury, Bury St Edmunds and Felixstowe.

They all moved into nearby WHSmith stores.

There was particular concern over the Bury store as it was franchised to WHSmith and put upstairs, leading to concerns over disabled access.

A “far from ideal” situation in Lavenham

Residents fear the situation at St Olaves could mirror that of Lavenham, which saw its Post Office close “temporarily” eight months ago. This was a post office decision, however, and came about after a contractual dispute between the sub-postmaster and the Post Office.

A post office van visits the village every day of the week, but parish council chairman Carroll Reeve admitted the situation was worrying for villagers.

He said the van tended to come to the village hall’s car park during the afternoons and was “not totally reliable”.

“It’s far from ideal,” he said. “I believe a business in Lavenham has shown interest to the Post office in taking it on.”

The worry of Mr Reeve, and others, is that many people are now heading to Acton and Great Waldingfield and soon the company may argue the Lavenham branch would not generate enough footfall to justify reopening a permanent base.

Permanent solutions being sought

Pressed on whether Lavenham would get a proper post office back, a spokeswoman would only say: “We are seeking a permanent solution for Lavenham. We are also looking at ways to restore Post Office service to Rickinghall, Higham and Alderton.”

She added: “With the size of our network there are a variety of reasons for temporary closures including ill health, general resignations, and expiry of leases.

“In the past 12 months in the IP postcode there have been three temporary closures, but there have also been the following announcements including a brand new branch opening next month, a branch re-opening, plus a brand new Post Office mobile van serving three communities in the IP area.” The new branch is in Thetford.

A vacancy for the St Olaves post office will soon be advertised on www.runapostoffice.co.uk

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