We have amended our post Office petition after lengthy discussions with management and a press release will appear shortly on this site and will be sent out to the local press. Please sign the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/newtonhallpostoffice
Some considerations as to why the post office must be retained as a main post office.
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.
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 protecting existing servcies. In the first few days of creating a petition to protect the existing post office and services 600 signatures were obtained. .
4. Opening Hours – If the post office is downgraded, any improved opening hours will be of little consequence to many users as they will still have to go to Silver Street in Durham.
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 existing 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 if it is modelled as a ‘Local’ 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.
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 simply a kiosk, 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.
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. The consultation does not properly explain that this is a downgrade to a ‘local’.
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.
11. Business model – It is very clear to us that a main post office would be sustainable in Newton Hall as it is busier than many other post offices.
12. Cost of retention – There is no detail in the consultation as to the total cost of the proposed changes. This should be made available to the public given that it is public money which will be spent. Additional funding would be available if main status was retained.
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.
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 a downgraded ‘local’ branch 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 authorities to have to use resources to deal with the deficiencies in the proposed new store.
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 and post office payments can be done at it. It is used so often that if not retained, the other machine is likely to run out of cash regularly and many residents will have to go to Durham city to sort out PO payments.
17. Modernisation Issues – The existing, the proposed or an alternative facility could be upgraded to meet modernisation standards and to retain ‘Main’ status.