Following on from the update regarding the Sheer House Development, Woking’s Member of Parliament, Jonathan Lord, recently received the following letter from the Post Office:
From: Owain Mumford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2020 12:44 pm
To: LORD, Jonathan
Dear Mr Lord,
Thank you for your email, which was passed to me as the new External Affairs Manager for London and the South East by my colleague Alice Cookson. Please do feel free to contact me from now on with regard to any matters related to Post Office services in your constituency.
I would like to reassure you and your constituents , firstly, that we are committed to providing Post Office services in West Byfleet. We would like to apologise sincerely for the disruption our customers are experiencing. Unfortunately, as you have rightly surmised, this situation has arisen due to matters largely outside the Post Office’s control. The Postmaster submitted a resignation in Autumn 2018 as the site was due to be redeveloped. Promisingly, the landlord of the premises from which the Post Office operated agreed to an extended notice period, during which time the Postmaster hoped to find a suitable property for relocation.
Unfortunately, despite searching the area assiduously, the Postmaster has not been able to find suitable alternative premises. As a result, I am afraid there has been no option but for the Postmaster to vacate the current premises and for the Post Office to close temporarily. We are obviously extremely disappointed at this outcome: we know how important Post Office services are to our customers, your constituents, and we try to avoid temporary closures wherever possible.
My Area Team colleagues are working extremely hard to resolve this situation and restore Post Office services as quickly as possible. In the first instance, Post Office is now advertising for a new Postmaster on the “Run A Post Office” website and are continuing to search the area for likely premises. As I am sure you can appreciate, given that the previous Postmaster was not able to find another location from which to run Post Office services, this will not be a straightforward task. I gather that the new Sheer House Development is unlikely to commence until Q4 2020, so we do not anticipate any applicants from businesses within the area for development until these works are completed. Furthermore, once an applicant has identified suitable premises, they must complete a thorough application process, which can take some time, though we do of course try to expedite this whenever possible.
With this in mind, we are also exploring interim measures to provide essential Post Office services while a more permanent solution can be found. This involves placing a temporary service via a Post Office ‘on wheels’ (a mobile Post Office counter) within an existing local business, which would allow both the Post Office to operate and act as an incentive for host retailers by increasing footfall, or another suitable empty premises within the area. In these instances, we often enlist the help of local stakeholders to find suitable partners or locations. To that end, if you or perhaps colleagues in local government are aware of any such businesses, we would be very grateful if you could notify us. In any event, we will of course be continuing with our own searches for potential venues in the area.
While we source both temporary and permanent solutions, we are directing customers to alternative branches nearby. I have set out below a list of the nearest Post Offices to West Byfleet, including associated driving distances:
- Woodham (driving distance 0.9 miles)
- Byfleet (driving distance 1.7 miles; to be aware, Byfleet is a ‘Main’ Post Office, of a similar size to West Byfleet and offering a similar range of Post Office services)
- New Haw Road (driving distance 1.9 miles)
- Ongar Parade (driving distance 2.5 miles)
I can also tell you that we are finalising plans to reopen Sheerwater Post Office in the coming months. We are hoping to have a firm date for restoration of services at Sheerwater in the coming days and I will of course notify you when this has been determined.
I appreciate the disruption of services at West Byfleet is of great concern to you and your constituents. As such, I would be happy to meet you to discuss this issue further either at Westminster or in the constituency. If this would be of interest, please do suggest some convenient dates and I will be happy to attend.
External Affairs Manager
20 Finsbury Street
LONDON EC2Y 9AQ