Honiton post office relocation plans come under fire

Honiton post office. Ref mhh 04-16TI 9748. Picture: Terry Ife

Honiton post office. Ref mhh 04-16TI 9748. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Company faces criticism from Honiton Senior Voice, with the town’s chamber of commerce also uncertain about the move.

Several organisations have spoken of their disappointment after it was revealed that Honiton’s post office services would be relocated to the town’s WHSmith store.

A Post Office Ltd spokesman said the new branch would continue to provide the same wide range of services, with the exception of a cash machine, although it intended to install an external cash machine in the future.

The company added that it had listened to people’s views throughout a six-week consultation, and it realised that access to the post office and parking close by was important for many people, including disabled people or those with limited mobility.

The new branch will have three counters and two self-service kiosks, with opening hours from 9am until 5.30pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 2pm, on Sundays - four hours more a week than it currently offers customers.

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But a spokesman for Honiton Senior Voice slammed Post Office Ltd for its choice to ‘ignore the many concerns of local people expressed against this move’, including those with mobility problems.

He added: “In doing so, they and WHSmith have rejected a petition, the views of local organisations, including Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce, Senior Voice, and more - and hundreds of representations on behalf of constituents forwarded by Neil Parish MP.

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“Our view is that, if the present purpose-designed post office is not broken, why fix it?

“Why transfer it to WHSmith, which is smaller and separated from Honiton’s sorting office? We cannot avoid the conclusion that the franchising decision was made before attempts to consult local people, which were, in any case, inadequate.

“In going ahead, Post Office Ltd and WHSmith must now live up to the many promises that were made to provide a better service.”

A spokesman for Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce said the group was ‘uncertain of the outcome’ regarding Post Office Ltd’s decision, adding: “While a post office is better than no post office and the extra opening hours will be of some benefit, we look forward to the public and business feedback in a few months’ time.”

Roger Gale, general manager for Post Office Ltd’s Crown branch network, said: “We are satisfied that the pavement running outside the WHSmith store is wide [enough] and the market complies with the relevant traffic and pedestrian regulations, and that access to the store will not be compromised.”

He added that the change would help to ensure the branch is ‘commercially viable into the future’ and therefore protect post office services for customers in Honiton.

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