Tuesday, 17 October 2017

No explanation for closure of two village post offices

NO official explanation is being offered for the ongoing closure of the post offices in Woodcote and Stoke Row.

The Woodcote counter, which is part of the Chana Stores convenience shop in Whitehouse Road, shut on May 26 and has since been removed from the list of branches on the Post Office’s “branch finder” website.

The Stoke Row outreach service, which is based at the village stores in Main Street and is also run by Sue Chana, who lives in a flat next door to the Woodcote premises, is still listed but has been closed for the same amount of time. It is usually open on Monday and Friday mornings and Wednesday afternoons.

The nearest alternative branches are in Ipsden, Goring and Pangbourne.

Staff at the Woodcote branch were telling customers there had been a computer error following a routine system update but Mrs Chana and her son Paul, who owns the building, would not comment when approached by the Henley Standard. Jeanette Creewel, co-owner of Stoke Row Village Stores, said they had also been told that technical problems were to blame.

A Post Office spokeswoman said the service was “temporarily closed due to operational reasons” and that the company was “working hard to restore service to the area as soon as possible.”

But when asked to explain the “operational reasons” she said she could say no more because of “confidentiality” and would not say when a reopening date was likely to be announced.

Geoff Botting, the vice-chairman of Woodcote Parish Council, said: “I think villagers are certainly concerned about this, and frankly quite puzzled about the whole thing. No-one seems to know what’s going on. I’ve been asked for information about it and it also came up at a recent meeting of the Woodcote Correspondent, our village newsletter.

“People really want some answers because they desperately want it to open again. Woodcote doesn’t have many amenities and it can be difficult to get to other villages, especially for older people, so the post office is very much valued.

“At the moment people have to collect missed parcels from the sorting office in Pangbourne and we had hoped the Woodcote branch would get permission to hold parcels instead, which would have made the situation easier. Now that this has happened, it seems things are going backwards.

“The parish council hasn’t formally written to the Post Office yet. Like a lot of people, we’ve just thought ‘oh, let’s give it a few more days and see what happens’ but there have been quite a lot of those ‘few more days’ now and we would really appreciate some more clarity.”

Stoke Row parish councillor Tracey Preedy said the matter was “concerning” but the authority hadn’t discussed it as it had not been drawn to members’ attention. Parish clerk Claire Dunk said she had received no complaints.

Hambleden post office was closed for about a month earlier this year when it lost its satellite internet connection, which meant card transactions couldn’t be processed until a new dish was fitted. On that occasion, the Post Office was willing to confirm there had been a technical failure.

l Chana Stores has been granted retrospective planning permission to run a café from the premises. South Oxfordshire District Council says the business may continue selling hot food for customers to eat in because it has been doing so for more than a decade and is therefore immune from enforcement action.

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