Use it or lose it warning over village shop

PUBLISHED: 23:25 09 September 2008 | UPDATED: 22:19 15 June 2010

OFFWELL Village Shop will only survive if people heed a use it or lose it" warning, now that the store's post office is definitely closing.

OFFWELL Village Shop will only survive if people heed a "use it or lose it" warning, now that the store's post office is definitely closing.After a hard-fought battle to keep the Post Office going, and after winning a temporary stay of execution, villagers were dealt the final blow last week.Sub-postmistress Helen Garwood, 51, who lives in Offwell, was told she was being made redundant on Tuesday. The news ended a four-month crusade to stop the branch falling victim to the axe.The post office will close early in October, leaving a question mark over the long-term viability of the shop.Mrs Garwood, who has worked at the post office ever since it opened four-and-a-half years ago, has been offered a part-time job in the shop by Offwell Retail Services Association.The gesture, although very much appreciated, has not masked her disappointment at Post Office Limited's decision."We still haven't got a reason why," she told the Herald."I feel devastated. I'd like to think they listened to all the arguments but, in reality, it makes you wonder."Every post office that was under further review is being closed. They might as well have done it six weeks ago."Mrs Garwood said she and others in Offwell, as well as in neighbouring parishes, had put their lives on hold during the consultation period.Feelings in the community ran so strong that a fighting fund attracted donations totalling £640.When news spread that the fight to save the post office had failed, villagers inundated Mrs Garwood with cards and flowers."It's really sweet - lovely," she said.Eileen Rooke, who is a volunteer buyer for the village shop, is annoyed that the post office was included in a nationwide network change programme for "no reason"."They've given no reason at all for this decision," she said."I think it is terrible for Helen. I feel for her, because it is her livelihood."Post Office Limited wanted us to have a full-time time post office and now, four years later, they have taken it all away. That's what gets me."Mrs Rooke said the survival of the village shop now depends on local support. It stocks Sainsbury's basic lines, as well as a growing amount of fresh local produce. Fresh eggs can cost just 65p per half dozen and many other, branded goods are on sale at highly competitive prices.East Devon MP Hugo Swire said: "Having had the privilege of opening the Post Office at Offwell only four years ago, I very much regret this decision to proceed with the proposed closure. The post office and village shop not only serves Offwell but also several surrounding villages and the closure of this post office will lead to a significant and serious impact on the local economy and community. "I do think that Offwell Post Office had an extremely strong case with a supportive local community, and this final decision will deprive many of an essential local service.

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