PLANS to close Royal Mail’s sorting and distribution office in Hitchin were announced yesterday (Wednesday).

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As part of a review of all operations, Royal Mail is also proposing to transfer all mail processing work from Stevenage to Hemel Hempstead.

The vacated Stevenage mail centre site on London Road would then house Hitchin and Welwyn Garden City delivery operations.

Letchworth GC had been considered for closure, but will remain open under the proposals.

While workers’ jobs are safe, the plans could lead to the permanent loss of hundreds of posts, with the intention not to replace workers when they leave, said one Hitchin postal worker, who did not want to be named.

He added: “Royal Mail is turning its back on Hitchin.

“It’s not just going to affect us as workers, it’s going to affect customers. How are they going to get their packages? At the moment they go to the delivery office, but the idea is to use the local post offices.

“The delivery office is open from 7am until 6pm. They can’t offer that level of service, and people will have to queue up with everyone collecting their pensions.”

He also criticised the plans as it will increase traffic along the A602 and add to the Royal Mail’s carbon footprint, with postal workers driving from Stevenage to Hitchin to make deliveries.

Steve Butts, the Communication Workers Union representative for the area, said: “We are in discussions with the union headquarters about our next steps.

“We welcome anybody who wants to sign the petition we have, to support us, at www.cwu-e4.co.uk”

A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “Royal Mail needs to respond to the huge growth in electronic communications and the resulting decline in overall mail volumes which in the UK means there are now 13 million fewer letters posted every day compared to five years ago.

“This operational review has been undertaken on the basis of a national agreement reached earlier this year between Royal Mail and the Communication Workers Union, endorsed by postmen and women in a national ballot.

“As part of this agreement we will spend the next three months consulting further with the trade union to establish the detail of how the planned changes would happen and to enable them to put forward any further options for Royal Mail to evaluate.”

Royal Mail is expected to make a final decision on the proposals in November.

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