The Post Office Ltd is proposing to remove Post Office services away from New Cheltenham Road and relocate them to Pool Road. The Kings Chase councillors, Pat Apps, Bill Bowrey and Terry Walker, have submitted the following response opposing the proposal.
30th April 2014
Dear Post Office Ltd,
We are the councillors for the Kings Chase Ward on South Gloucestershire Council responding to your consultation on relocating services away from the PO branch at 123 New Cheltenham Road.
We have spoken to many local residents and held a public meeting to gauge views. This response has been informed by the views expressed to us.
We strongly object to the proposal to remove Post Office facilities from 123 New Cheltenham Road, BS15 1UL and relocate them to Pool Road.
1. The current service is located at the heart of a designated Priority Neighbourhood based on deprivation data, and we need to retain and grow services in this area. We believe the proposal to remove services contradicts Post Office Ltd’s stated values “that place us firmly at the heart of the community”. A great deal of time has been committed by a great many people and organisations to promote community cohesion and improve residents’ quality of life. Support for retaining the Post Office at 123 New Cheltenham Road comes from the New Cheltenham Community Centre, the local vicar (Kingswood parish), Housing Associations, the Over 50s Forum, the Kingsmeadow Community Flat and the chairs of the Kingswood Safer & Stronger Group and the Connecting Kingswood co-ordinating group.
We want to work more closely with Post Office Ltd as a partner within the New Cheltenham area rather than lose you as a valued service provider.
2. The proposed new location is sited within a different community and is not a genuine alternative. Pool Road is located up a steep hill half a mile distant from New Cheltenham Road. No bus routes pass this location, which makes us consider this a very strange proposal from Post Office Ltd. In addition there are no pedestrian crossing facilities at the Sweets Road and Pool Road junction, and the latter is busy with traffic. Residents have told us that they will not venture up to Pool Road so we urge you to accept that this is not an acceptable alternative location.
3. The proposed new Post Office is due to provide fewer PO services. In addition to losing a key public service from a Priority Neighbourhood, the proposed alternative is at smaller premises offering a smaller range of Post Office functions.
4. The loss of the Post Office from New Cheltenham Road will hit particular groups within the community. A high proportion of local residents are elderly, with schemes of sheltered and extra-care housing in the immediate vicinity. Young mothers would find it very difficult to negotiate Lees Hill with a buggy (and cross the road, as stated above). There will also be a negative impact on local ebay businesses who need to send goods out: we need to encourage entrepreneurship in this area.
5. Post Office Ltd has failed to communicate widely, both in terms of marketing opportunities and with this current proposal. Despite you stating that “we have been actively seeking a more secure solution”, on further investigation this refers to advertising on your own website. We do not accept that this is proactive behaviour. When quizzed, you have admitted that neighbouring businesses have not been specifically consulted, which is a standard practice in local government. We believe that the departure of a Post Office from New Cheltenham Road is bound to have a negative impact on footfall for neighbouring businesses.
6. Post Office Ltd is breaking previous promises made in regard to local Post Office provision. When Post Office Ltd removed services from 141 Station Road, BS15 4XX in 2004, you offered the 123 New Cheltenham Road Post Office as the alternative for users. Now this too is under threat. Local people will note this ‘domino effect’ and this moving of goal posts will damage trust in Post Office management.
7. The transfer of services is unnecessary as the current sub postmasters are willing to continue to provide Post Office services. Post Office Ltd needs to be more positive to achieve your stated aim “to retain services locally into the longer term”, rather than simply move the services out of the neighbourhood. The current sub postmasters advise us that they have not been approached about the business opportunity and that nobody from Post Office Ltd has pursued a proposal to continue with them. Instead, you are using bureaucratic technicalities as a reason for withdrawing a key service from a Priority Neighbourhood, and this is unacceptable. Your use of the term “temporary” is misleading as the 123 New Cheltenham Road Post Office has functioned under these arrangements for around 5 years already and there is no immediate threat to its continuation other than your own proposal!
The current sub postmasters have indicated to us that they would be willing to negotiate a long lease (10+ years) with the shop owner in order to negotiate a franchise with Post Office Ltd, supplying a comprehensive business plan and references. This should demonstrate the level of commitment you seem to be seeking. We therefore urge Post Office Ltd to abandon the relocation proposal and seek an agreement that will retain Post Office services at 123 New Cheltenham Road. This would be the appropriate way forward that would not damage your existing customer base or damage your corporate pledge of protecting community Post Offices. To continue with your current proposal would tear a valued and valuable resource from the heart our community.
Pat Apps Bill Bowrey Terry Walker