December 12 2013 Latest news:
Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Monday, September 30, 2013
Norwich residents desperate to keep their post office close to home have been given extra time to argue their case – because of a blunder in the paperwork.
When the Post Office drew up controversial plans to move the branch from Vauxhall Street to Unthank Road its leaflets and posters said the distance between the two was 500 metres.
But opponents of the move measured it themselves – and discovered it was 650 metres.
Campaigners slammed the mistake over the distance between the current premises and the potential new location at Hurn Pharmacy as “abysmal.”
The Post Office has now accepted the distance provided by the campaigners as correct and has had to re-issue posters with the correct information, as well as extending the consultation from the original finish date of October 9 to October 18.
The distance had been a particular concern for customers of the Vauxhall Street branch, many of whom are elderly or less mobile and would struggle to get to Unthank Road.
Wheelchair-bound Mark Byfield, 40, of Coach and Horses Row, said he would struggle to get to Unthank Road due to his mobility problems, adding that he believed the Post Office had not taken into account the demographics of Vauxhall Street where there were more elderly people who relied on the Post Office than in the Unthank Road area.
He said he often visited the branch in the Suffolk Square shopping parade to use the cash machine and occasionally to buy stamps and he also feared the impact the loss of the branch would have on neighbouring shops as it helped to attract shoppers to the area.
“The mistake is abysmal for a start and the plans to move the branch are also abysmal. Surveys have been done down Unthank Road which show that there are very few elderly or infirm people down there,” Mr Byfield said.
Doreen Cochrane, of nearby St Stephen’s Square, said she would struggle to get to Unthank Road because she suffered from a condition which made walking long distances difficult.
She also feared for the wellbeing of elderly residents of Melbourne Cottages, who had further to walk.
“They want to get their facts right don’t they? They don’t seem to care. They did not do the measurements right or the homework right,” Mrs Cochrane said.
Sheila Tapster, spokesman for the Post Office, said: “As part of the feedback that we received through our consultation process, the distance between the current and proposed premises was highlighted as incorrect in the information we provided.
“While this was clarified in a letter on September 6 to customers and opinion formers we have now decided to extend the period of public consultation to October 18 2013, so that the full six-week period is available for further consideration and feedback.”
Earlier this month, Kevin Shepherd, network transformation manager at the Post Office, reassured 100 Norwich residents their opinions would be taken into consideration at a public meeting to discuss plans to move their branch to another location within the city.
Before the public consultation, the post office invited applications to run the Vauxhall Street branch after the current sub-postmaster decided he did not want to continue running the outlet in the Suffolk Square shopping parade.
Two shops applied, the Vauxhall Street Pharmacy, next door to the existing premises, and Hurn Chemist, on Unthank Road, which was selected pending the resignation of the current sub-postmaster and the consultation.