Villagers set up post office campaign

A NEW action group trying to save a village post office is to canvas local residents over the personal problems which will be caused by closure.

David Green

A NEW action group trying to save a village post office is to canvas local residents over the personal problems which will be caused by closure.

The group, at Gislingham, near Eye, claims the closure plans are “not fit for purpose”, partly because there is no existing venue for the outreach service proposed as a replacement.

Post Office Limited has indicated the nine-hours-a-week outreach service would be based at the Six Bells pub in the village but it is currently up for sale and the landlords have made clear they are no longer interested in the proposal.

GRIPP - the Gislingham Residents' Initiative to Protect our Post Office - was set up as a result of a parish council meeting when about 70 villagers attended to voice their concerns and urge action.

Chairman of GRIPP, Chris Pitt, said yesterday the new group - made up of four parish councillors and four members of public - had agreed on a strategy of fighting the closure only on the basis of factual data.

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None of the three alternative post offices listed by Post Office Limited were convenient to reach by public transport, he claimed.

The best of them required a 3hr 49min round trip by bus, crossing a busy main road and arriving at a post office with no disabled access.

“None of the post offices open as many hours as Gislingham, none carry the same range of services and none serve as many people,” Mr Pitt said.

He had a statement from the licensees of the Six Bells pub stating that they had withdrawn their permission to use the pub for the outreach service “so even the fig leaf of a miniscule Post Office service has been withdrawn,” Mr Pitt said.

The action group was now putting the finishing touches to a flyer which would be distributed to all homes in the village asking for information on the impact of losing post office services.

“We shall be particularly seeking to discover those who have no personal transport and will be relying on the inadequate public transport network, as well as those who have disabilities making public transport journeys impractical or impossible and local businesses that could be affected,” Mr Pitt said.

He added: “We are confident that the consultation document provided by Post office Limited is not fit for purpose, partly due to small inaccuracies concerning opening times of alternative post offices that they have proposed but crucially because the central plank of the Post Office's proposals - the hosted outreach service point - is no longer an option.

“The Post Office Limited proposal for Gislingham is inaccurate, inadequate, ill-conceived and illogical - the decision needs to be revisited and reversed.”

Michelle Corney, who has run the Six Bells pub with her husband, Barry, for the past three years, confirmed that they had withdrawn their permission to host an outreach service. “We are selling up,” she said.

Geoff Laurence, who has run Gislingham Post Office for the past 20 years, has also declined to host the proposed outreach service.

A Post Office Ltd spokesman said: “We welcome all comments and feedback during the public consultation which runs until June 2. No final decisions will be made until after the consultation is complete.”

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