Fighting to save Newton Hall post office

The Advertiser Series: POST OFFICE FUTURE: Newton Hall Post Office, Durham,Councillors’ campaign to save Post Office branch from closure Craig Martin PPC, Cllr Mark Wilkes and Cllr Mamie Simmons POST OFFICE FUTURE: Newton Hall Post Office, Durham,Councillors’ campaign to save Post Office branch from closure Craig Martin PPC, Cllr Mark Wilkes and Cllr Mamie Simmons

A CAMPAIGN has begun to save a suburban post office from closure.

The Post Office is looking at closing its Newton Hall branch, on Alnwick Road, and moving services into the nearby McColl’s newsagents.

However, councillors say this would see some services axed, hitting the 6,500 people living in the area – particularly the elderly, who might find it difficult to travel to the Silver Street branch in Durham city centre.

Mark Wilkes, Mamie Simmons and Amanda Hopgood, Liberal Democrat county councillors for Framwellgate Moor and Newton Hall, are calling for the existing branch to be saved and improved.

Cllr Wilkes said: “This branch is better used than many main offices.

“If you’re elderly, having to go to the city centre can be difficult. It’s an inconvenience.

“There are also lots of people working at the university and postgraduate students living in Newton Hall who use this branch to send items abroad.”

Cllr Simmons added: “If the branch closes, it could affect other local shops and businesses.”

Craig Martin, the prospective Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Durham City, said: “The Post Office is not listening to the will of local residents, time and time again.”

The councillors have secured a meeting with a senior manager from the Post Office for Monday, August 18.

They are also encouraging concerned residents to sign a petition, which currently has 700 names. They hope to distribute the petition around local shops and make it available online.

The Post Office says the proposals are part of its three-year investment and support programme, the biggest in the Post Office’s history, which will see 6,000 branches, about half the network, converted to new style branches.

Bosses say the change would mean better disabled access and longer opening hours.

The current branch is open from 9am to 5.30pm on weekdays and 9am to 12.30pm on Saturdays, whereas the new one would be open 6am to 9pm Monday to Saturday and 7am to 9pm on Sundays.

A six-week public consultation has begun and runs until Tuesday, September 9, with the changes due to take effect in October or November.

To take part in the consultation, postofficeviews.co.uk, email: comments@postoffice.co.uk, call 08457-22-33-44 or write to: FREEPOST Your Comments.

Comments (13)

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5:52am Wed 13 Aug 14

MWatts says...

I'm absolutely stumped with this one.

Isn't McColl's the place a couple of doors down?

So folk are complaining about an extra 10 metre walk (or a shorter walk coming from the other direction).. and FAR longer opening hours?

Yup, sounds like a real bum deal that one!

"The Post Office aren't listening to the will of the people!"

Maybe not, but people's will doesn't pay the rent on the building, which will be surely more than a hiring the corner of a shop.
I'm absolutely stumped with this one. Isn't McColl's the place a couple of doors down? So folk are complaining about an extra 10 metre walk (or a shorter walk coming from the other direction).. and FAR longer opening hours? Yup, sounds like a real bum deal that one! "The Post Office aren't listening to the will of the people!" Maybe not, but people's will doesn't pay the rent on the building, which will be surely more than a hiring the corner of a shop. MWatts
  • Score: 3

12:14pm Wed 13 Aug 14

David Lacey says...

Correct Mr Watts. However it is alleged that some existing services will not be available, presumably the ones rarely required. Personally I cannot get steamed up about this.
Correct Mr Watts. However it is alleged that some existing services will not be available, presumably the ones rarely required. Personally I cannot get steamed up about this. David Lacey
  • Score: 1

12:03pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

Hi M Watts and David
Just so you get a better idea of why this move is not good, many services will be lost, and there will be one person serving instead of two or three at the moment. I will put the full list of reasons we are discussing with the post office on here. It may alter your view, it may not, but I think people should have more information.
Hi M Watts and David Just so you get a better idea of why this move is not good, many services will be lost, and there will be one person serving instead of two or three at the moment. I will put the full list of reasons we are discussing with the post office on here. It may alter your view, it may not, but I think people should have more information. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -1

12:04pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

It might appear that moving a post office a few metres would not affect people, but the loss of service and capacity is a serious issue. Below are some of the reasons we are putting to post office management regarding the move.

1. Demographics – The Newton Hall area has the highest elderly population in the whole of County Durham. Access to the main post office in Durham requires parking in a paid parking area and then walking from 250-500m to the pedestrian area where the main post office is located. This will be very inconvenient and costly for a huge number of our elderly residents and does not make social or economic sense. The existing facility has a large car park and simply requires a disability access ramp. McColls would require the same disability access changes so cost cannot be an issue.

2. Demographics – Newton Hall has a significantly higher than average for the North East, number of residents with family and friends living overseas. This includes family members of British Overseas forces. The University has an enormous overseas population of students and teaching, and support staff, many of whom live in Newton Hall. Many use overseas services. Note that when it was built Newton Hall was the biggest housing estate in Europe. Some overseas and forces services will be lost.

3. Public Support – There is enormous public support for retaining and improving the existing facility. In the first few days of creating a petition 600 signatures were obtained. We anticipate that this will end up being in excess of 1000.
It might appear that moving a post office a few metres would not affect people, but the loss of service and capacity is a serious issue. Below are some of the reasons we are putting to post office management regarding the move. 1. Demographics – The Newton Hall area has the highest elderly population in the whole of County Durham. Access to the main post office in Durham requires parking in a paid parking area and then walking from 250-500m to the pedestrian area where the main post office is located. This will be very inconvenient and costly for a huge number of our elderly residents and does not make social or economic sense. The existing facility has a large car park and simply requires a disability access ramp. McColls would require the same disability access changes so cost cannot be an issue. 2. Demographics – Newton Hall has a significantly higher than average for the North East, number of residents with family and friends living overseas. This includes family members of British Overseas forces. The University has an enormous overseas population of students and teaching, and support staff, many of whom live in Newton Hall. Many use overseas services. Note that when it was built Newton Hall was the biggest housing estate in Europe. Some overseas and forces services will be lost. 3. Public Support – There is enormous public support for retaining and improving the existing facility. In the first few days of creating a petition 600 signatures were obtained. We anticipate that this will end up being in excess of 1000. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -2

12:04pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

4. Opening Hours – There is the option for the existing facility to open for longer hours at no additional cost to the business, which significantly negates any benefit of the proposed new site being open longer when taking into account the loss of services.

5. Expansion of Population – To the west, and within less than one mile of the post office, the council has put forward proposals as part of its County Plan to build up to 4500 new houses. Residents of these new areas will be closer to Newton Hall than to the main post office in Durham City.

6. Capacity – Whilst attending the site on Friday evening, we helped the postman collecting parcels. 5 full sacks of parcels were taken out to the van, his third trip of the day. This during school holidays when many residents are on holiday. There is simply not enough space in the proposed new facility to store and process the level of packages currently processed. Given that the Post Office and Royal Mail aims to increase their parcel business, it is not clear how reducing capacity can possibly assist in that aim.
4. Opening Hours – There is the option for the existing facility to open for longer hours at no additional cost to the business, which significantly negates any benefit of the proposed new site being open longer when taking into account the loss of services. 5. Expansion of Population – To the west, and within less than one mile of the post office, the council has put forward proposals as part of its County Plan to build up to 4500 new houses. Residents of these new areas will be closer to Newton Hall than to the main post office in Durham City. 6. Capacity – Whilst attending the site on Friday evening, we helped the postman collecting parcels. 5 full sacks of parcels were taken out to the van, his third trip of the day. This during school holidays when many residents are on holiday. There is simply not enough space in the proposed new facility to store and process the level of packages currently processed. Given that the Post Office and Royal Mail aims to increase their parcel business, it is not clear how reducing capacity can possibly assist in that aim. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -2

12:05pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

7. Community hub – Whilst it is recognised that a business must be sustainable, it is also clear that the post office acts as a community hub, a point for exchanging stories and information. This will be lost if the post office is moved, and there is a wider risk of such a move reducing the number of customers to neighbouring businesses. This would create a vicious cycle affecting other businesses and is unacceptable.

8. Consultation – The current consultation period is flawed. It commences when schools are closed, and provides no opportunity for the 9 schools using the facility to comment on their views. Some of the services used by local schools will not continue and that business will be lost. The consultation period should be extended by two weeks to allow schools and those parents who may be on holidays to have adequate time to respond.
7. Community hub – Whilst it is recognised that a business must be sustainable, it is also clear that the post office acts as a community hub, a point for exchanging stories and information. This will be lost if the post office is moved, and there is a wider risk of such a move reducing the number of customers to neighbouring businesses. This would create a vicious cycle affecting other businesses and is unacceptable. 8. Consultation – The current consultation period is flawed. It commences when schools are closed, and provides no opportunity for the 9 schools using the facility to comment on their views. Some of the services used by local schools will not continue and that business will be lost. The consultation period should be extended by two weeks to allow schools and those parents who may be on holidays to have adequate time to respond. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -1

12:05pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

9. Consultation – The consultation documents contain inaccurate information, stating that some services will remain when they will not, and in other cases is confusing and does not provide detail of many of the service changes.

10. Loss of neighbouring facility services – Whilst it is appreciated that no area is losing a post office, there has been a loss of some services at neighbouring relocated post offices. This has placed increased pressure on Newton Hall. Durham City’s main post office which recently underwent modernisation does not have the capacity to provide the services which would be lost if Newton Hall were moved.
9. Consultation – The consultation documents contain inaccurate information, stating that some services will remain when they will not, and in other cases is confusing and does not provide detail of many of the service changes. 10. Loss of neighbouring facility services – Whilst it is appreciated that no area is losing a post office, there has been a loss of some services at neighbouring relocated post offices. This has placed increased pressure on Newton Hall. Durham City’s main post office which recently underwent modernisation does not have the capacity to provide the services which would be lost if Newton Hall were moved. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: 0

12:10pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

11. Business model – It is very clear to us that the existing site can be improved and would be sustainable and could offer additional services to the local community.

12. Cost of retention – There is no detail in the consultation as to the total cost of moving to the new location. This should be made available to the public given that it is public money which will be spent. This funding should be available to the same level for the existing facility.

13. Surrounding area – The post office does not only serve Newton Hall. Smaller communities such Brasside and Finchale Abbey Village, with larger than average elderly populations use the facilities and it would place greater inconvenience on residents from these localities.
11. Business model – It is very clear to us that the existing site can be improved and would be sustainable and could offer additional services to the local community. 12. Cost of retention – There is no detail in the consultation as to the total cost of moving to the new location. This should be made available to the public given that it is public money which will be spent. This funding should be available to the same level for the existing facility. 13. Surrounding area – The post office does not only serve Newton Hall. Smaller communities such Brasside and Finchale Abbey Village, with larger than average elderly populations use the facilities and it would place greater inconvenience on residents from these localities. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -1

12:10pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

11. Business model – It is very clear to us that the existing site can be improved and would be sustainable and could offer additional services to the local community.

12. Cost of retention – There is no detail in the consultation as to the total cost of moving to the new location. This should be made available to the public given that it is public money which will be spent. This funding should be available to the same level for the existing facility.

13. Surrounding area – The post office does not only serve Newton Hall. Smaller communities such Brasside and Finchale Abbey Village, with larger than average elderly populations use the facilities and it would place greater inconvenience on residents from these localities.
11. Business model – It is very clear to us that the existing site can be improved and would be sustainable and could offer additional services to the local community. 12. Cost of retention – There is no detail in the consultation as to the total cost of moving to the new location. This should be made available to the public given that it is public money which will be spent. This funding should be available to the same level for the existing facility. 13. Surrounding area – The post office does not only serve Newton Hall. Smaller communities such Brasside and Finchale Abbey Village, with larger than average elderly populations use the facilities and it would place greater inconvenience on residents from these localities. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: 0

12:11pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

14. Sustainability - Durham City is currently under an Air Quality Management Order due to excessive pollution levels. The centralisation of services will contribute to increased traffic having to use the City centre. Because of the topography of Durham, with Newton Hall being on hills and Durham being in the River valley, walking into Durham to use the City Centre facility is not possible for most people. Cycling is also problematic for similar reasons. Despite having a large population Newton Hall does not have great bus services. These issues affect not just elderly, but also the disabled and the wider general public.

15. Safety and Security - It is unclear how the proposed new facility will be able to safely store residents parcels. It is further unclear how the limited staff members will be able to protect the rest of the store if they are spending more time dealing with queues of customers from the post office. It should not be for the local police to have to use resources to deal with the deficiencies in the proposed new store.
14. Sustainability - Durham City is currently under an Air Quality Management Order due to excessive pollution levels. The centralisation of services will contribute to increased traffic having to use the City centre. Because of the topography of Durham, with Newton Hall being on hills and Durham being in the River valley, walking into Durham to use the City Centre facility is not possible for most people. Cycling is also problematic for similar reasons. Despite having a large population Newton Hall does not have great bus services. These issues affect not just elderly, but also the disabled and the wider general public. 15. Safety and Security - It is unclear how the proposed new facility will be able to safely store residents parcels. It is further unclear how the limited staff members will be able to protect the rest of the store if they are spending more time dealing with queues of customers from the post office. It should not be for the local police to have to use resources to deal with the deficiencies in the proposed new store. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: 0

12:12pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

16. Cash withdrawals - The ATM in the current facility is used by a huge number of people (900 per week), and there is nothing in the consultation detailing what will happen to this facility. It is also free for use which is essential. It is used so often that if not retained, the other machine is likely to run out of cash regularly.

17. Modernisation Issues - The rigid approach of the Post Office in stating how new counters and layouts must be adhered to is not in the interests of the general public. Suggesting unnecessary alterations to the existing facility, whilst failing to provide the costs of the proposed facility is not acceptable.
16. Cash withdrawals - The ATM in the current facility is used by a huge number of people (900 per week), and there is nothing in the consultation detailing what will happen to this facility. It is also free for use which is essential. It is used so often that if not retained, the other machine is likely to run out of cash regularly. 17. Modernisation Issues - The rigid approach of the Post Office in stating how new counters and layouts must be adhered to is not in the interests of the general public. Suggesting unnecessary alterations to the existing facility, whilst failing to provide the costs of the proposed facility is not acceptable. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -1

12:15pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

I hope you can see that as local councillors we have looked into this in quite a lot of depth and whilst you may agree or disagree with our comments, it is clear that concerns need addressing. I am told that even some books of stamps will not be able to be bought from the new site. In addition it is possible that at least one job will needlessly be lost.
I hope you can see that as local councillors we have looked into this in quite a lot of depth and whilst you may agree or disagree with our comments, it is clear that concerns need addressing. I am told that even some books of stamps will not be able to be bought from the new site. In addition it is possible that at least one job will needlessly be lost. cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -1

12:34pm Thu 14 Aug 14

cllrmarkwilkes says...

We have now set up an online petition. Please pass the link around to as many people as possible so we can add to the paper one.

http://www.ipetition
s.com/petition/newto
nhallpostoffice
We have now set up an online petition. Please pass the link around to as many people as possible so we can add to the paper one. http://www.ipetition s.com/petition/newto nhallpostoffice cllrmarkwilkes
  • Score: -1

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