Monday, 18 June 2018

Village post office to be replaced by van

POST office services in Nettlebed will be cut by 108 hours a week unless someone can be found to run a counter in the village.

A new mobile service will start on March 26, with a van visiting for two hours on two mornings a week.

It follows the closure of the post office counter in the Spar shop at the BP petrol station in Port Hill, which was open from 6am to 10pm every day.

Malthurst, which runs the petrol station, announced the closure in December, saying the service was not viable.

The counter moved there more than two years ago when the post office relocated from the church hall in High Street.

Almost 650 people signed a petition opposing the closure but no one has come forward offering to run a counter in the village.

Henley MP John Howell told a public meeting at Nettlebed Village Club on Thursday last week that the mobile service was not definitive.

“It is something to be put in place until we see whether there is a fuller service available,” he said.

“What we are all wanting is somebody to be a sub-postmaster — you can’t have a branch in the village without one.”

He said that if a sub-postmaster was found, then the Post Office would help set up a suitable counter in a location such as the village club, which is owned by the parish council.

The sub-postmaster would be responsible for managing the counter and serving customers. As well as handling post and parcels, they could also help provide financial services and currency exchange.

The mobile service will be based at Warborough and also visit Benson, RAF Benson, Checkendon and Stoke Row.

Councillor Jon Sedwell, chairman of Nettlebed Parish Council, said: “They hope it will be twice a week on Monday and Thursday.

“At the moment they are proposing coming to Nettlebed from 9am to 11am.

“Where the van is going to be positioned is yet to be agreed. We hope it will be at the car park at the village club, which is in a central location and there is parking.”

The nearest permanent post offices are in Henley and Sonning Common.

Parish councillor Barbara Lewis said the post office had been used by people from outside the village.

She said: “We have a catchment area here for other services and the post office is one of those. It’s not as if we are a little, isolated village.”

Some residents expressed concern about the economic viability of running the service and security.

The parish council will consider setting up a working group to discuss this. The group will include residents and representatives of nearby parish councils including Swyncombe and Stonor with Pishill.

A Post Office spokeswoman said: “We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the temporary closure of Nettlebed post office.

“We are working hard to keep the closure period to a minimum.

“The Post Office will be introducing a temporary mobile service at the end of March while it continues to look for a suitable location.”

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