Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Post office could be moved to pub

WATLINGTON post office could be moved into a shop or pub in order to safeguard its future.

WATLINGTON post office could be moved into a shop or pub in order to safeguard its future.

The idea was discussed by the parish council on Tuesday amid fears for its future.

In July it was revealed that postmistress Nikki Jackson had “expressed an interest” in leaving the current business, which is inside her shop in High Street.

The council fears that if she goes, then the Post Office will withdraw its subsidy but the company says it wants to retain an operation in Watlington..

Councillor Tony Williamson said: “It seems to me that what we want is a post office in the centre of town, I think the high street or around that area.

“I assume we could go and start talking with the traders and try to work out a solution and come up with a proposal.” He said there was a danger the Post Office might choose a site further out of town such as the Fox and Hounds pub at Christmas Common.

Council chairman Ian Hill said: “There are relatively few premises in town that would fit a post office.

“Even the Co-op, which is the biggest shop, isn’t big enough to fit a post office counter in. They would be losing a lot of their current space.”

Councillor Hill said he’d heard a lot of suggestions about setting up a community post office at either Barclays bank, which is to close on October 23, or at No 33 High Street, which is owned by the Charlotte Coxe Trust but has been unoccupied for years during discussions over its future.

Oxfordshire County Council is currently responsible for the trust but the parish council is considering asking to take it over.

The property and No 35, which is occupied by the town’s library, were left in a 1949 legacy by Charlotte Coxe for the benefit of the people of Watlington.

However, No 33 needs significant work to make it habitable.

Cllr Hill said: “We need to be realistic about what we can achieve. Really it’s a question of what we do to go forward.

“It might be worth talking to the pubs — I don’t know whether you’re allowed to have a post office in a pub.”

Councillor Rachel Huckvale said that in her parents’ village a post office service was offered at the pub for a few hours a week.

Councillor Bob West said a pub also might not have room for the counter.

“We have just said wouldn’t it be great if there was a road of possible shops but they there really aren’t many,” he added.

The Watlington Club could also be considered as a possible location.

A report to the council by Peter Richardson, leader of community campaign group Watnext, said that Post Office area manager Alan Ridout had stated any changes  were up to a year away and would be subject to public consultation.

The council agreed to approach the Watlington Business Association and the Watlington Business Centre to discuss the options.

A Post Office spokeswoman said the company was committed to maintaining a service in the area.

“We are not planning to close any post office but we do have a need to ensure that our branches are commercially sustainable into the future and want to work with the postmistress at Watlington to explore the best way of achieving this,” she said.

“If we can find a suitable alternative retailer and we do decide to relocate the branch, any relocation would be subject to a public consultation.”

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