Les will lose his independence if post office is axed

PUBLISHED: 21:35 04 June 2008 | UPDATED: 21:54 15 June 2010

MUSCULAR dystrophy has left 62-year-old Les Atterbury confined to a wheelchair.

MUSCULAR dystrophy has left 62-year-old Les Atterbury confined to a wheelchair.In his more active days, he was secretary of Offwell Rural Services Association and remembers well how Post Office Limited did everything it could to encourage Offwell residents to set up a new post office.Offwell's original post office closed six years ago. East Devon MP Hugo Swire opened a brand new facility, in temporary accommodation, two years later."The Post Office was very much in favour of it. They even provided us with a grant," Mr Atterbury told the Herald.Speaking to us from his home, in Woodlands Close, Offwell, last Thursday, he recalls a further, substantial grant being made available from the Countryside Agency.Now planning permission for a permanent building has been granted and fundraising for the development is in full swing, villagers feel as though the rug has been pulled from under their feet.They have got just one month to get Offwell Post Office off a closure list. Forty-four other branches across Devon face a similar fate."The village post office allows me to keep my independence," said Mr Atterbury, who has lived in Offwell for 25 years."As my condition has deteriorated, I can only get out and about in my wheelchair. "The most important thing for me is being able to get cash and do my banking. I can do that at Offwell Post Office."Mr Atterbury is unable to use public transport and says specialist transport to and from Honiton will cost him £14-a-time - without a guarantee that it can drop him close to the post office in Honiton.He fears for the future of the village shop, housed in the same building as the post office."I think it's unlikely the shop would survive by itself," he said."It works very well with the volunteers, but sub-postmistress Helen Garwood is there all the time. "She knows what to order and what is going on."If Offwell Post Office succumbs to the axe, Mr Atterbury says he will be stuck."I'd have to rely on other people and lose my independence," he said. "I would also lose the social contact. "The post office and shop is a sort of meeting place. "It's where you find out what's going on."The possible loss of village services fills Mr Atterbury with dread. "It will be sad to see it close, when the Post Office was so keen to have it in the first place," he said.

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