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Queues concern as Witney post office moves to shop
WITNEY’S post office will close today amid concerns about queues and access at the new service.
The Market Square branch will shut for the last time at 5.30pm, with a new service opening in the WH Smith store tomorrow.
The Post Office is closing the branch to save cash but said the replacement, in Woolgate Shopping Centre, would be open longer.
The current branch is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm and on Saturday from 9am to 12.30pm. The new service is to open for an extra nine-and-a-half hours a week, including five more hours on Saturdays and from 10am to 2pm on Sundays.
But some residents fear the store is not the best place for a post office branch.
Sheila Cuss, 75, of Newland, said of the current branch: “It’s used quite a lot. At busy times there are queues out into the street. In WH Smith there’s no room to provide the service. The shop is already crowded much of the time.”
Retired secretary Lyn Jones, of Burwell Drive, who uses the service up to three times a week, said: “WH Smith is so dark and dingy, whereas the post office is so bright and airy.”
She added: “If there’s someone in the aisle you can’t get through. It’s also an extra walk for vulnerable people.”
West Oxfordshire District Council Labour group leader Duncan Enright, who led a campaign against the move, said: “It feels like we’re losing an important asset to the town, which could do with improving.
“It feels at the moment like it’s been downgraded but we have the opportunity to make a fuss about it and continue to campaign to ensure we get the service the town needs.”
The closure is among 70 around the country aimed at cutting costs.
Automatic doors are to be fitted at the new service and it will be in an open-plan layout including a low-level counter for wheelchair users.
Judith Wardle, from North Leigh, helped collect 1,200 signatures last year for an online petition to save the current branch.
She said: “One of the things I’m particularly interested to see is how disability-friendly the new arrangement is.”
Post Office spokesman Cathal Jones said: “The new home for the branch has been designed with existing and predicted levels of business in mind and we are confident it will be able to accommodate people in Witney.”
WH Smith spokeswoman Nicola Hillman said: “WH Smith has successfully operated post offices within its stores since 2006. “In Witney, we are committed to ensuring we integrate a post office that is suitable and accessible for all.
"This will include removing a number of freestanding display units, installing new slimline fixtures and removing a number of fixtures of product towards the rear of the store.”
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