Bury St Edmunds Crown Post Office will move into W H Smith in November, the Post Office announced this afternoon.
The decision has drawn criticism from local politicians and the Post Office workers’ union, who also criticised the timing of the move so close to the Christmas postal build up.
The Post Office says the current service in the Victorian building in Cornhill will close on November 2 and the new office on the first floor of the neighbouring W H Smiths will open the next day at 9am.
It says the move will offer ‘9.5 extra opening hours – seven days a week service’ in a ‘modern open-plan branch’.
The Post Office statement adds: “Customer access both into and within the store will meet Post Office’s own accessibility standards and applicable legislation.
“Before the move, local disability groups will be contacted to take them through the layout of the new branch.”
Roger Gale, General Manager for the Post Office’s Crown branch network said: “Our customers’ needs continue to change and we are responding to that, taking the right action to sustain our services for years to come.
“W H Smith already operates around 100 Post Office branches throughout the UK and we have been successfully working with them for nearly ten years.
“They have a proven record of running Post Offices with consistently high levels of customer service,”
However, Tim Pavelin, area representative of the Communications Workers’ Union, said all the existing staff have said they did not want to move to the franchised Post Office.
He added: “They’re going to transfer to a franchised operation with staff without the experience at the busiest time of year, coming up to Christmas.”
He added: “It’s such a shame after the public of Bury St edmunds mounted a big campaign with a petition with 7,000 signatures to keep it there.
“We exposed access problems by being on the first floor.”
Ward councillor David Nettleton said: “I’m very disappointed with the decision. They put a lot of money into that Post Office to make it customer friendly and now they’re going to close it and move to the first floor of W H Smith’s which isn’t as good.
“Disposing of their buildings is taking precedence over common sense.”
Bury MP Jo Churchill said: “It is still disappointing to see that, after much deliberation between myself, Post Office Ltd, representatives from the Communication Workers Union, the town and borough councils and local residents, the Bury St Edmunds Crown Post Office cannot be maintained in its present iconic location.
“I met extensively with Post Office Ltd and all interested parties to ensure their deliberations were thorough and all factors considered, including the strong local opinion of the Bury St Edmunds Crown Post Office customers.
“Unfortunately, the public consultation, which looked only at customer access, has concluded that the Bury St Edmunds Crown Post Office should close and the service be franchised to WH Smith next door.
“The vital postal service is maintained in the town but, in my last conversation with Post Office Limited on Friday, I stressed that if any problem with access should arise, particularly for the old and vulnerable, I will be challenging their decision.”