May 23 2013 Latest news:
By Laura Burge
Saturday, August 18, 2012
DOZENS of postal workers left Hitchin sorting office for the last time today (Saturday) as mail services cease to be provided there, just as a consultation gets underway to determine the future of the site.
Dates in the calendar
•Friday, September 7 and Tuesday, September 18 – Exhibition days
•Tuesday, September 25 – Consultation ends
•October – Revised planning brief submitted to Hitchin Committee
•December – Planning brief formally adopted
•2013 – Planning application to be submitted
Services will be relocated to Stevenage – as announced by Royal Mail in 2010 – with the 70 employees working their last shift today.
There are plans by the site’s new owners – Whitebarn Developments (Hitchin) Ltd – to create a complex made up of shops, flats and leisure facilities there.
A public consultation based on these plans began on Monday.
Steve Butts, area spokesman for the Communications Workers’ Union, said: “It will be a very sad time when next Saturday comes, as this will be the last time Hitchin posties leave the sorting office to deliver mail to the town and nearby villages. Following Monday, their workplace will move to Stevenage.
“There has been a Royal Mail sorting office in Hitchin since circa 1860, occupying premises in Brand Street and Kings Road, before moving to the Portmill Lane site. When the mail was moved by rail, Hitchin postal workers played a major role in the travelling post office night operation at Hitchin Railway Station, as depicted in W.H. Auden’s famous poem Night Mail.”
He added: “Whilst my members will continue to serve the Hitchin community, the historic link of a sorting office in town will, after Saturday, be lost forever.
“Not only will the sorting office go, but also the image of a postie on a bike, because these have been replaced by vans. All of this change is part of responding to the changes in the way customers use the postal service these days.”
There were originally concerns that people would have to travel to Stevenage to pick up their missed letters and parcels, once the site closed.
But Royal Mail told the Comet that there would be a collection point at T Brooker and Sons Ltd in Bucklersbury.
It added: “We are confident that moving Hitchin delivery office will provide better working conditions for our people, as well as a more cost-effective operation for our business.”
The consultation into the future of the site has gone live online.
Mark Shadbolt, from Whitebarn, said: “On the website, [you can] see the full draft planning brief, exhibition boards, questionnaire and feedback form and exhibition details.
“The planning brief has been produced to inform and shape the future development of the site, and as such provides an analysis of the site, its surroundings and appropriate uses.”
Although no detailed plans have been made public at this stage, architects have produced some “very initial ideas” for areas of the site such as the Hermitage Road frontage. These be displayed at the public exhibitions on September 17 and 18.
Feedback from the consultation, which will last for six weeks, will be used to form a revised brief, which will be submitted to Hitchin area committee.
It is expected that a planning application will be submitted in 2013.
Plans for the site have been praised by the town’s councillors, who say it will boost the town.
Earlier this month, chairman of Hitchin area committee Ray Shakespeare Smith said: “I think this is a step forward and a development in that site will be a great advantage and a benefit for the people of Hitchin.”
To take part in the public consultation, visit http://sorting-office.whitebarn-developments.co.uk