Councillors work to ensure Stevenage Old Town is not left without a post office

PUBLISHED: 08:28 12 September 2019

Stevenage's Waitrose store will permanently close on October 27. Picture: Maya Derrick

Stevenage's Waitrose store will permanently close on October 27. Picture: Maya Derrick

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Councillors have signalled they will take steps to ensure Stevenage Old Town is not left without a post office.

The Old Town's post office - currently within Waitrose on the High Street - is set to close on October 23.

The move was forced by Waitrose announcing closure of its Old Town branch on October 27 after the supermarket said it was not able to make it commercially sustainable in the long-term.

At a meeting of Stevenage Borough Council's environment and economy select committee, councillors heard there are still no firm plans for the future provision of post office services in the town.

And, although they were told the post office is currently looking for a sub-postmaster and a location for the branch, a break in service is expected when the branch closes.

Councillors highlighted the impact this will have on the many older residents, as well as local businesses and shops, that regularly use the service in the Old Town, where there is no longer a bank.

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And they stressed the need to find a speedy solution that would ensure the post office did not disappear, even on a temporary basis.

The existing branch, it was noted, serves in excess of 1,000 customers a week.

Moving the post office to the library or the borough council's Springfield House was suggested, as well as the possibility of a mobile shop or a shipping container.

During the discussion councillors said the practice of putting post offices within other stores had made them vulnerable to the fortunes of that business.

Old Town councillor Jim Brown - who suggested the High Street unit previously known as Domin8 could be an option - also said: "There are still shops and businesses on the High Street that are cash only. What exactly do they do when they cash up? Where are they supposed to go?"

He said there is a need for a broader debate on the future of the High Street, pointing to the vast frontage of the Waitrose store that will be desolate.

The committee also agreed the scope of a more general review of post office services in the borough, looking at how well served the borough is with post offices, the pressures on them and their economic viability, as well as users' views of the service.

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